Daily Israel Report

MKs Demand Public Inquiry, Not Internal Committee

Defense Minister Peretz announces a new committee to review the army's performance before and during the war in Lebanon. His friend Lipkin-Shachak will head it. Criticism heard from all sides.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 8/17/2006, 2:48 PM / Last Update: 8/17/2006, 5:39 PM

The committee, which was announced Wednesday night by Minister Peretz, has been charged with investigating the readiness of the IDF and the Defense Ministry for war, as well as the IDF's wartime functioning. It is to be staffed by former Defense Ministry Director Gen. (ret.) Ilan Biran, other former IDF generals, and Chairman of the Teva pharmaceuticals company Eli Horowitz. The committee is to submit its findings within three weeks.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Amnon Lipkin-Shachak will chair the committee. He headed the army until 1998, when he was replaced by Sha'ul Mofaz. More recently, however, he served as an advisor to his friend Defense Minister Amir Peretz - including during the very war in Lebanon that he is now supposed to investigate.

Labor MK Danny Yatom said, "There is a large problem with the appointment of people to a committee that has been formed to investigate the decisions made by their friend."

The Movement for Quality in Government called upon the nominees to the committee not to accept the job. "The committee will be nothing more than a fig leaf against public criticism," the movement's officials said in a statement.

MK Benny Elon (National Union) is strongly against the formation of the Shachak committee, and is confident that a public investigative committee "with real teeth" will take its place. "This is because many voices are calling for it, and not only from the opposition," he told Arutz-7's Hebrew newsmagazine today.

"They are also the voices of soldiers who fought in the war with great dedication and motivation, and we cannot silence them. They have a bitter feeling of disappointment, after being allowed to fight only at the last minute until they were stopped."

Elon said that very many aspects of the fighting must be investigated:
"From little things such as how it happened that soldiers merely 2-3 kilometers from Israel did not have food, and up to big things such as the fact that for three weeks, the armored forces did not have a defined mission, but were rather brought in and out of Lebanon a few times; even their division commander could not explain what was going on."

Elon added that the functioning of the Homefront command and the non-implementation of evacuation plans must also be looked into.

Seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, MK Elon said, "It is at difficult times like this that leadership can grow for the People of Israel. Crises and war are nourishing grounds for young leaders - people who... were in war, and saw the cries and suffering of the people. You have talents, and I call upon you to come and assume the leadership."

Likud MK Yuval Shteinitz (Likud), former Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that Peretz's decision is shameful, and that its purpose is merely to "prevent the establishment of a serious, external investigative committee."

MKs Shteinitz, Yatom, Yossi Beilin and others have joined Elon's call for a public committee of inquiry, to be headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak. Shteinitz said it should begin work only after the last of the soldiers return from Lebanon. If such a committee is formed, the Shachak committee will be disbanded.