Lebanon War Commission Tries to Block Publication of Testimonies

Winograd Commission turns to IDF officials for support to block publication of key testimonies on failures during Lebanon War.

Hana Levi Julian,

In the ongoing struggle of the Winograd Commission against the Supreme Court order to publicize key Lebanon war testimonies, including that of the Prime Minister, members of the Commission have contacted IDF officials asking them to intervene against the court decision.

The Winograd Commission is conducting a probe of the government’s failures during last summer’s Second Lebanon War.

A number of informal contacts have been made between individual senior IDF officers and various Commission members this week to map out a strategy to block publication of the testimonies, according to a Haaretz news report.

The Commission has reportedly also appealed to the military censor to block publication of some 30 IDF career officers' testimonies with an eye toward protecting those who appeared before the Commission. The IDF censor is empowered to rule that publication of materials will harm state security.

The officers, said an unnamed Commission member, had spoken freely about the performance of their superiors since they believed the testimony would be considered classified information, which is not released to the public.

A number of Commission members also threatened the Supreme Court this week that they would resign if forced to publish the probe’s testimonies. According to Army Radio, Dr. Ruth Gavison and General (res.) Menachem Eitan have both threatened to quit if the Commission releases the transcripts.

The Commission is facing a court order to publish censored testimony by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz prior to release of the interim report on the probe’s findings. The Commission members maintain that due to their intense preparations of the interim report, they cannot properly review the full protocols to censor parts that might harm state security.

A panel of five Supreme Court justices is set to hand down its final decision later Wednesday on the release date for the protocols of the above three leaders.

Supreme Court President Justice Dorit Beinish blasted the Commission on Sunday for backtracking on its commitment last month to release the transcripts prior to publication of the interim report.

Judge Beinish said the retraction was due to the uproar caused by publication of Vice-Premier Shimon Peres’s testimony that he would not have gone to war. "You simply reneged [on your commitment] after one of your witnesses expressed his dislike for something," Beinish said.

MK Ami Ayalon (Labor) said Tuesday that Winograd Committee members were “terrorizing the Supreme Court” and undermining the public’s trust in the state-picked members’ findings.

IDF reservist groups and the families of fallen soldiers also reacted harshly to the committee’s resignation threats, calling the members “tools of the government” and insisting the public has the right to judge for itself whether the war was a failure.

The interim report of the Winograd Commission is due to be released in several days.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been reportedly meeting with widely-known leftist leaders to enlist their support for his plans to make far-reaching concessions to the Arabs in order to reach a signed agreement with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Baruch Gordon contributed to this report.