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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Knesset to set up committee to probe Amona violence

The Knesset decided today by a narrow margin to set up a committee to investigate last week's violence police brutality in 'Amona.' That does not mean that the investigation is going to happen yet, and even if it does happen, it almost certainly will not be concluded before the elections and the committee will have to be re-established after the elections. The vote was so close because Labor - which is supposed to be in 'opposition' these days - voted with the government. I guess they realized that many of those baton-wielding yassamnikim (the police unit that perpetrated the beatings) are (at least potentionally) Labor party voters.

The Knesset plenum voted on Wednesday evening to establish an investigative committee to probe the unexpected violence that took place during the evacuation of the Amona outpost last week.

The decision won by a majority of 37-32 in the specially-convened meeting. The next step in the process is transferring the issue to the House Committee, who will set up the terms of the special committee. The final decision will return to the plenum for a second vote.


Although last week the Labor Party off had called for the parliamentary investigative committee, Labor MKs voted Wednesday against establishing such a committee and agreed that all MKs were expected to vote against the proposal when the Knesset convened.

"We never wanted an investigation launched against police. We originally called for an investigation because we felt the target was elsewhere. The right investigation should be launched on why Ehud Olmert misplanned the evacuation, however instead people are trying to target the police," said Labor MK Yuli Tamir.

The new committee will be charged with determining whether police used excessive violence during the evacuation, addressing charges of physical, verbal, and even sexual abuse against the thousands of settlers and their supporters at the scene.


The motion to set up the committee was initially expected to pass with Labor's support. However, after party chairman Amir Peretz met with various consultants from his party, it was decided that backing the motion would harm its election campaign.

The committee will only be in effect until the March 28 elections. Once a new government is formed, it will have to re-approve the committee if it is to continue to function.


At the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh admitted that the IDF had not foreseen the extent of the violence which characterized the outpost evacuation last week at Amona.

Naveh noted that had the IDF known how strong the resistance would be, the army would have acted differently.

MK Effi Eitam, who was injured in the violence, used Naveh's statement to blast the security forces. "As a former senior IDF officer, I would expect that when things get out of hand, an order would be given... to stop, step back, and rethink [the plan]," Eitam said.

Harsh words were exchanged between Eitam and police officials present at the meeting after the two sides presented evidence supporting contradictory versions of the circumstances surrounding Eitam's injury.

Eitam claimed to have been struck in the head by a police horse and backed his statement with photographs of himself, allegedly taken immediately before his injury, in proximity to a police horse.

On the other hand, police showed video footage of Eitam far away from the police horses before his injury, as well as tapes of the MK immediately after he was struck in the head. The police insisted that his injury was caused by a rock thrown at him by demonstrators.


Later, while MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), supported by a police officer, debriefed the committee about the events at Amona, a member of the terror victims support group lashed out at Vilan, repeatedly calling him a liar. After refusing to heed calls forbidding him to make such verbal assaults, the man had to be forcibly removed. Eitam backed up the man, joining in to call the police "liars."


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