The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution endorsing the Goldstone Report, which found evidence suggesting that the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas may have committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead last winter (but reserves its harshest criticisms for Israel.)  The report was discussed at the council for a vote for the first time earlier this month, but the Palestinians (under heavy pressure from the United States) opted to defer a vote on the resolution until the Council met again in March.  The Palestinian leadership, however, come under heavy domestic pressure from this decision and so reversed course and called for a special session of the council to vote on the Goldstone Report. 

This episode is being closely watched in Washington because it presents the first real test of American engagement at the council.  As I wrote at the time, the first non-vote was a pretty good example of the United States effectively pursuing its interests through diplomacy at the council. While this second vote did, in fact, endorse the report (an outcome the United States was trying to avoid) the final vote count was pretty weak: 25 in favor, 6 opposed, and 11 abstentions.  This means that the issue has probably run its course.  There is very little chance that (as the report suggests) the Security Council will consider granting the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over the crimes. 

 What does this say about U.S. engagement at the Human Rights Council? It is impossible to predict what would have happened should the United States have simply stayed out of this debate (as it has largely done since the council was formed in 2005). But I think it is fair to say that the United States was able to steer the result of this debate at least closer to its preferred outcome than had it simply remained on the side-lines. 

Here is a breakdown of the final vote:

 

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