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Friday, March 17, 2006

Amona report to castigate Ezra, Mofaz

According to a report in HaAretz, the Knesset investigative committee looking into police-perpetrated violence at 'Amona' is expected to issue a preliminary report this week that will castigate Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz for obstructing the committee's work. No surprises there. And since this is Israel, I am sorry to inform you that neither minister will be dismissed from his position as a result of his behavior. More likely, they will be declared heros of the Kadima Achora party of which they are both members.

All four commission members agree about the ministers' obstructive role in the inquiry. The members are Yuval Steinitz (Likud), Matan Vilnai (Labor), Ilan Shalgi (Hetz) and Uri Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party).

The report is to say the commission decided to forego the offer by the ministers to testify again, which the latter wished to do in lieu of the officers.

The report is to list the contradictions in the testimony from Ezra and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. It will underscore the fact that Halutz and police commissioner Moshe Karadi could not answer clearly whether the Amona region was declared a closed military area.

During the debates, Steinitz said that officers from the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police had approached the commission and said they were willing to testify. They were very embarrassed that the ministers prevented them from doing so, he said.

The report is to state that Mofaz and Ezra gave the commission only part of the relevant material, despite their promise to hand over all of it. [But of course, they won't be indicted for obstruction of justice. CiJ]

The report is to say that senior jurists who appeared before the commission also blasted the ministers for not permitting their officers to appear. Professor Emanuel Gross went as far as to say that the ministers' decision was illegal and in contempt of the Knesset.

Addressing the evacuation of Amona itself, the report is expected to conclude that there was no chance of reaching a compromise that would put off the settlers' evacuation and the demolition of the structures in the illegal outpost. This is because the compromise proposals issued by the Yesha Council of settlements and former MK Hanan Porat were untenable and presented extremely late.

The report is also expected to slam the police for not using tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, instead of clubbing them, which fanned the flames.

Apparently the commission members are at odds over criticizing how the IDF and police functioned and the role of settlers in inciting the crowd. MK Vilnai said he firmly objects to blaming the police and security forces, who were trying to do their job. He said he believes the settler leaders and right-wing extremists caused the conflict to develop as it did.

MKs Steinitz and Ariel, on the other hand, may support the criticism of the police.


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