JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday the United Nations would deal a fatal blow to prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace if it endorsed a report critical of Israel's January war in Gaza.

Israel has been stepping up public attacks on the report into its three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip -- calling it unbalanced and one-sided -- before a meeting on Friday by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council.

Advancing the so-called Goldstone report will deal a fatal blow to the peace process, Netanyahu said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting.

Israel will not be able to take further steps and take risks for peace if it is denied the right of self-defense, he said, echoing comments he made last week at the U.N. General Assembly.

Formal negotiations on Palestinian statehood have been suspended since the Gaza conflict.

Richard Goldstone, a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor who led the U.N. inquiry, urged on Tuesday the 47-member state Human Rights Council to adopt the report which found that the Israeli military and Palestinian militants committed war crimes.

Adoption of the report would mean it is referred to the U.N. Security Council for further action.

Goldstone has urged the Security Council to bring the allegations to the International Criminal Court in The Hague if either Israel or Palestinian authorities failed to investigate and prosecute those suspected of such crimes within six months.

Israel launched the Gaza offensive with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.

A Palestinian rights group says 1,417 Palestinians, including 926 civilians, were killed in the Gaza war. Israel has said 709 Palestinian combatants, 295 civilians and 162 people whose status it was unable to clarify were killed.

Israel lost 10 soldiers and 3 civilians in the offensive.

In a briefing to reporters after the Israeli cabinet met, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Netanyahu's government was discussing the possibility of setting up an independent commission to look into the military's conduct of the Gaza war.

(Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)