Olmert Attempts to Avoid State Commission of Inquiry

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has united political forces in their opposition to his announced commissions of inquiry.

Yechiel Spira , | updated: 5:27 AM

The prime minister, in an address delivered to local elected officials in Haifa on Monday night, boldly announced he has decided to appoint two commissions of inquiry. One is to delve into the actions of the government vis-?-vis the war in Lebanon, and the second will examine the actions of the military.

It did not take long for the prime minister’s plan to elicit a united reaction of opposition by both members of the coalition and opposition. Most critics, including members of the cabinet, explained that nothing less than an independent state commission of inquiry headed by a judge would do the trick. They added that the current plan would do little or nothing to restore the public’s faith in the government, and said that Olmert’s commissions will lack the authority to call for the dismissal of senior officials.

Hiding behind the cloak of protecting the national interest - “We do not have the luxury of spending years to examine the past” - the prime minister said that his commissions will examine both the political and military roles in the war.

In the meantime, reservists who served in Lebanon, backed by the Movement for Quality Government and other organizations, vow to continue manning the hunger strike and protest tents outside the Knesset. Refusing to accept Olmert’s ‘solution’, they demand a state inquiry into the war, pointing the finger of malfeasance at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Olmert has chosen former IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shachak to head the commission responsible for reviewing and scrutinizing the actions of the military in the war. Despite Lipkin-Shachak’s pristine record, including experience in negotiating and expertise in military matters, opponents insist the commission lacks the authority to do what must be done.

The other commission, responsible for investigating the governmental role in the war, will be headed by former Mossad Intelligence Agency Director Nachum Admoni. Other members will be prominent law professor Ruth Gavison, Yehezkel Dror, and Yedidya Ya’ari, a former Israel Navy commander.

Lawmakers have stated that despite the impressive lineup on the committees, the move by the prime minister wreaks of an attempted cover-up, insisting a self-appointed commission cannot legitimately investigate the actions of the very government that appointed and oversees it.

The prime minister also spoke of the IDF soldiers being held in captivity by Hamas and Hizbullah, vowing to “bring the soldiers home,” albeit not as quickly as he had hoped.

The acceptance of the United Nation’s-brokered ceasefire agreement, UN Resolution 1701, is seen by many as a major failure by Olmert, who promised that no ceasefire agreement would be accepted by Jerusalem that does not include the “immediate and unconditional release” of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the soldiers apprehended along the northern border by Hizbullah. Olmert also spoke of Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was taken hostage by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza area on June 25. Nevertheless, on Monday, members of Shalit’s family and friends visited Kerem Shalom, the site of the Hamas attack in which Shalit fell captive, marking his 20th birthday over two months after he was abducted.

Olmert also focused on the need to prepare for the “next front,” speaking of the current and growing Iranian threat. He stated with absolute certainty that the establishment of a state commission of inquiry will negatively impact the country, a move that cannot be tolerated at this critical time.

Boasting of a victory in the war, Olmert stated that a major blow was delivered to Hizbullah in southern Lebanon. He defended the ceasefire which was embraced by his administration, stating it will result in a major peacekeeping force serving as a buffer between northern Israel and Hizbullah, now situated further north in Lebanon.

Analysts agree that mounting public calls for a state commission of inquiry will neutralize the effectiveness of Olmert’s commissions, which are not deemed acceptable by most Israelis.