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By Allyn Fisher-Ilan
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a lengthy diplomatic battle to "delegitimise" United Nations charges that Israel committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip, an official said on Saturday.
The U.N. Human Rights Council singled out the Jewish state for censure in a resolution on Friday, while endorsing a report by South African jurist Richard Goldstone which condemned both Israeli and Hamas actions in a war last December and January.
Netanyahu, who has said the Goldstone report could undermine U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace moves and that he would object to Israelis standing trial for war crimes, was quoted as saying Israel would wage a protracted struggle against the criticism.
"Israel must delegitimise the delegitimisation," Netanyahu said, according to an Israeli official. He said the campaign "would not take just a week or two but possibly years."
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Friday that "Israel totally and completely" rejected the U.N. council's vote condemning Israel but not the Palestinian Islamist faction. However, Ayalon added that he thought Israel would not ultimately suffer any significant consequences.
Twenty-five states including China and Russia endorsed the resolution passed by the council meeting in Geneva, while six including the United States voted against, charging that the resolution was one-sided. Eleven states abstained. Four, including France and Britain, did not vote at all.
The resolution endorsed Goldstone's recommendation that the war crimes issue be referred to the U.N. Security Council if the sides failed to conduct credible domestic investigations within six months, and possibly then to the International Criminal Court.
It did not mention Hamas, which Goldstone also criticised for its actions in the Gaza war. Palestinians say that as many as 1,387 Palestinians died, among them many civilians, while 13 Israelis were killed.
Palestinians have said they would name committees to see to implementation of Goldstone's recommendations. Hamas said on Friday it would investigate, but did not comment on the report's criticism of the Islamist group.
Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would also see to forming a panel to implement the report "so it doesn't end up lying on a shelf like other resolutions do," said an aide, Yasser Abed-Rabbo, in the West Bank.
Israel had said it launched the war in response to Hamas rocket attacks which had terrorised residents of Israeli towns bordering on the Gaza Strip for several years, though they caused few casualties.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza)
(Editing by David Stamp)

Reuters