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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The first scene of Ehud Olmert's last act

The curtains are beginning to come down around Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Today, Olmert agreed to appoint an commission of inquiry investigating team into the conduct of the war in Lebanon last month. But the team is designed to have no real power and to ensure that Olmert is not blamed.

Olmert, who spoke to northern community leaders in Haifa, said the investigating team, which would be charged with examining the political echelon, would be headed by former head of the Mossad Nahum Admoni.

He will be joined by former Navy commander, Maj.-Gen. (res) Yedidyah Ya'ari, Law Professor Ruth Gavison and Political Science Professor Yehezkel Dror. The name of the fifth member of the inquiry has yet to be released although he was described as
a senior defense official.

The prime minister dismissed calls to form a state inquiry commission [which would have real powers. CiJ], arguing it "would not prepare for the future, which is to deal with the Iranian threat."

According to Olmert, "A state inquiry commission headed by a judge would paralyze the entire system. Everyone would then get a lawyer and concentrate on how to pin the blame on someone else." [As if this is not what is happening now. CiJ]This, he argued, would not fix what needs to be fixed. "We do not have the luxury to sink into investigations of the past, we need to focus on the future and the Iranian threat," he stressed.


Olmert said that aside from the track headed by Admoni, another sub-committee would probe the handling of the military, while the state comptroller would be charged with examining the home front.

It is still unclear whether the military track would be headed by former IDF chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. (res) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who was appointed by Defense Minister Amir Peretz earlier this month to probe the army.

Olmert is fooling no one.

Lior Dimanez, one of the leaders of the reservists' protest movement, said the new investigation was not sufficient. "It's unthinkable that those to be questioned will appoint the interrogators," he told Israel TV. "It's simply a continuation of the spin, the spin that started with the war and is continuing now."

According to Channel 10, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein refused an offer by Olmert to head the commission because, the report stated, it signals the prime minister's unwillingness to provide the commission with extensive powers since it is not headed by a judge.

A governmental inquiry commission is headed by a senior public figure and its members are appointed by the prime minister, who also defines its powers.

The prime minister refused to establish a state (judicial) inquiry commission, which is considered the only commission that has "teeth," since it has the authority to subpoena witnesses and order the disclosure of documents.
Here's a sampling of Tuesday's opinion columns:

Dan Izenberg, Jerusalem Post:

The Movement for Quality Government and the head of the army reservists protest movement have already declared they will continue their campaign for an independent state committee of inquiry headed by a judge. Meanwhile, University of Haifa law professor Emmanuel Gross described Olmert's proposal as a "cover-up committee." There will be many critics, and not only from the political opposition, that will agree.
Ze'ev Segal, HaAretz

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has pulled out of his hat committees without any real foundation, lacking in public trust, just like hot balloons. Even were these to do their job properly, they would not win the confidence of the public, no matter what their findings might be.


The Olmert lab instead created all kinds of "home-made" committees of an internal nature, with members who come even from outside the system. Even if such committees were granted some type of investigative powers, the government's control of the appointment of their members and of the publication of their reports makes the probe a national farce.

Olmert did not gain anything from setting up the committees. He did not even buy himself time-out. The High Court of Justice is due to rule on the establishment of a state commission of inquiry. In the past, such petitions have been rejected but it was made clear that court intervention might be possible "in unusual and extraordinary" cases. The second Lebanon war appears to be such a case.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel (MQG), whose members began a hunger strike to demand a state commission of inquiry, called Olmert’s suggested committees “a joke” and announced that their protests would continue until a state commission is established.

Meretz party chairman Yossi Beilin censured Olmert’s decision saying that it was handled “in the same stammering manner in which he handled the war.” Beilin called on the heads of the two committees to refuse to accept the position they were given because they wouldn’t be able to do their job.

“Anyone called to testify before the committee should not do so because he risks being framed. In a state commission of inquiry, such a scenario does not exist,” he added.

MK Ami Ayalon (Labor) declared similar opinions and called on government ministers to reject Olmert’s proposed investigative committees. “The Israeli public is developing a feeling of alienation and losing faith in the system. Restoring the public’s faith is no less important than examining failures – and anything less than a state commission of inquiry will not achieve this,” he stated.

Fellow Labor member Dani Yatom explained the importance of a state commission: “The only obligatory committee is a state commission of inquiry, which is the only one that can see the big picture, examine the reciprocal relationship between the political and military echelons and evaluate this important aspect,” he said.


Voices on the right side of the political spectrum expressed similar disapprobation for Olmert’s choice of investigative committee. MK Effie Eitam (National Union-NRP), like Yatom, censured the commissions’ separation of the military and political echelons.

“Tonight the government created one commission to allow foot-dragging and escaping of responsibility for the politicians and a second committee to lay all of the blame on the military. The purpose of having two separate commissions is to stab the IDF in the back, an ugly attempt by the government to escape its responsibility for the failures of this war, which manifests itself by its self-righteousness and hypocrisy towards the military,” he elaborated.

Fellow party member Zevulun Orlev echoed these sentiments, saying “the government did not allow the military to win and now they are covering their asses. The government abandoned the home front as well as its obligations to fulfill the war’s objectives, foremost among them the return of the kidnapped soldiers and the disarmament of Hizbullah.”

“The government’s attempts to plaster over its enormous failures by avoiding a state commission of inquiry hurts the already unstable faith of the Israeli civilians and reservists in the nation’s leadership,” he added.

Among the waves of criticism, one voice of support for Olmert was heard. MK Ruhama Avraham (Kadima) said that “the prime minister made a brave and correct decision. Such an investigation will spare Israel a process at the expense of state security…The decision allows Israel to prepare for confrontations in the future.”


At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to a change in government, however it may take some time.
Carl, how long do you think it will take, realistically, before we have elections?

At 9:43 PM, Blogger Yoel.Ben-Avraham said...

Elections? You mean "how long till the detentions commence?"

The decision to divide the inquiry into two separate bodies (in order to avoid inconvenient conclusions) is legal and decided by a "democratically elected government". Those who object are radicals fermenting instability, patently anti-democratic forces trying to undermine the foundations of our democracy.

Thank G-d this Lebanese situation occured so they have finally revealed their true identities! Now we can safe guard the state from all the incidious forces dedicated to its overturning.

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say burn the Knesset down, burn all the stored grain and....

I actually disagree with this politically motivated witch hunt.

If you want the I.D.F. to be empowered Olmert has chosen the right way to get to these issues.

The Real Three Stooges are..


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