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Friday, October 06, 2006

High Court orders government to explain why no State Commission of Inquiry

Three weeks ago today, I wrote a post in which I attempted to explain to all of you the difference between the Winograd Commission and an official State Commission of Inquiry. Yesterday, the Supreme Court, acting as a High Court of Justice (Bagatz, as it's known here) issued an order to the government to "show cause" why it has not appointed an official State Commission of Inquiry. If the government fails to "show cause" satisfactorily to the court, the court may order it to appoint an official State Commission of Inquiry - effectively disbanding the Winograd Commission. In other words, the court may accomplish what all the reservist street demonstrations until now have failed to accomplish. The government was surprised by this. They have five days to answer the petition.

Following the court's order last night, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, one of the petitioners, called on the Winograd Commission to suspend its activities until the court makes its final decision. But commission members said in response that "in principle, the Winograd Commission is continuing to work intensively. If the High Court should rule otherwise, the commission will of course honor its decision. At the moment, the commission is continuing in high pace, according to the appointment it was given. There is no reason to freeze the appointment."

Appointing a state commission of inquiry would lessen the likelihood of cronyism as has characterized the Winograd Commission. For example, YNet reports that yesterday
after a number of members of have been disqualified, quit, or were transferred from their posts, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ruled that Meni Ben-Haim cannot serve as Winograd Commission secretary.

In a letter sent to Mazuz by the commission's chairman, retired judge Eliyahu Winograd, it was written that "after an examination of the issues, I have come to the conclusion that there is an obstacle to appointing Mr. Ben-Haim to this post because of a concern that there appears to be conflict of interests and damage to the public faith in the commission's work."

Further on in the letter, Mazuz mentioned that the findings of the investigation he made show that the appointment was made based on practical considerations, however, he chose to disqualify the appointment.

"The appointment was made on the background of acquaintance with Mr. Ben-Haim and his professional capabilities and there was no involvement on the part of the political echelons in any way, shape, or form in the appointment.

"However, as has been reported by Mr. Ben-Haim and as has emerged from investigation, Mr. Ben-Haim's served in the last elections, held a few months ago, as a coordinator in the volunteer headquarters of the Kadima party, which is a leading and central component of the government whose activities and conduct, among other things, the commission is said to examine. I did arise in investigation that Mr. Ben-Haim was alternately a member of the party center and active in the political establishment in the past years," Mazuz wrote.

In response to the attorney general's decision, Ben-Haim told Ynet, "It is important to treat and to see the attorney general's statements as they are."
Hopefully, the court will do what no one else has been able to do until now - force the government to submit to a real commission of inquiry. If the results of that inquiry are what I and many others would expect them to be, the sorry Olmert-Peretz-Livni government may come to its end.


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