Legal Expert: Findings Mean Olmert Must Resign

Atty. Yosef Fuchs says that according to precedent set by the Kahn Commission, responsibility for a grave security fiasco obligates resignation.

Hillel Fendel ,

Olmert Livni
Olmert Livni

Following the grave findings of the Winograd Commission on Monday afternoon, Atty. Yosef Fuchs of the Land of Israel Legal Forum issued a statement saying that Olmert has no choice but to resign. Fuchs says that this is the indicated conclusion based on the Kahn Commission precedent that investigated Sabra and Shatila in 1982.

"Olmert must resign, which means the resignation of the entire government," said Fuchs, an expert on Israeli constitutional law. He had previously explained that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who some see as Olmert's natural successor, should not expect to fill his place.

Atty. Fuchs explained that the Kahn Commission found that one who is "found to bear ministerial responsibility for a grave security or political fiasco, must resign or be fired. It will be recalled that then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was found to be responsible for the fact that the defense establishment did not succeed in preventing the Sabra and Shatila massacres, and ended his job on the spot."

Fuchs acknowledged that the Winograd Commission has less authority than that which investigated Sabra and Shatila, as "the former was appointed as a governmental review committee, and not a public commission of inquiry. However, the Government of Israel, via the State Prosecution, declared in a response to a suit brought against the establishment of the Winograd Committee that practically, its authorities would be the same as those of a public commission of inquiry."

"Therefore," concludes Fuchs, "given that Winograd found that Prime Minister Olmert is responsible for the very grave failure of the Second Lebanon War, he must resign at once. If he does not do so in a reasonable amount of time, we will file suit with the Supreme Court."

Earlier in the day, Fuchs related to the speculation that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's refusal to come to Olmert's defense means she's hoping to replace him. He explained that she should not expect to take his place.

Atty. Fuchs wrote a letter to Minister Livni explaining that though she enjoys the title "Acting Prime Minister," this does not mean she becomes Prime Minister in the case of Olmert's resignation. "In such a case," he wrote, "the entire government continues to function as a carry-over government, while the President empowers another MK of his choice to form a new one.

"According to Clause 19 of Basic Law: The Government," Fuchs wrote, "if and when the Prime Minister decides to resign - possibly in light of the Winograd Commission findings - the legal ramification is that the entire government resigns with him. In such a case, Clause 30c stipulates that the Prime Minister and the ministers continue to serve until a new government is formed."

"This can happen," Fuchs writes, "only after the President - or, in this case, Acting President Dalia Itzik - appoints one of the MKs, from any party of her choosing, to form an alternative government. If the MK does not succeed within a set amount of time, the Knesset is dissolved and new elections are called."

The above scenario is totally different than one in which the Prime Minister cannot fulfill his duties, such as was the case with Ariel Sharon, or dies, or is impeached. In such a case, a fellow party member of the Prime Minister takes his place until a new government is formed.

Fuchs concluded the letter by opining that if in fact the Winograd Commission finds that Olmert failed in his handling of the Second Lebanon War, "he will have to resign, which will - justifiably - lead to the resignation of the entire government, for in fact the entire government, including you [Livni] yourself, voted for every one of the decisions that were made."

Livni said this morning (Monday) that she would relate to the Winograd findings only after their publication this afternoon.