Even though Israel is not participating, or did not allow the commission — headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone — to pass through Israeli territory, it seems to have helped bring about two developments that can be applauded.

First, despite its opposition to the probe, which is mandated to investigate actions of both the Israeli military and Hamas, the Israeli government has agreed to provide compensation for the damage inflicted upon UN buildings, including a school, in Gaza during the December/January offensive.  This is a welcome step, though it does not of course excuse the inexcusable: bombing a UN building, even by accident, but particularly if targeted, makes Ban Ki-moon very, very angry.

Second, and more directly, the commission was able to hear from Israeli witnesses, most prominently the father of captured soldier Gilad Shalit, in Geneva.  That the investigation is seeking out such witnesses should be signs enough to the Israeli brass that it is not “hopelessly biased,” but alas, that train, as they say, has sailed.

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