The voices calling for the establishment of a state commission of inquiry to examine the recent Lebanon war recently received another show of support: The Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee also requested that such a committee be formed, stating that the commissions proposed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are insufficient.
In the meantime, the cabinet has postponed a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, during which ministers would have voted on Olmert's proposed commissions. The meeting will take place next Sunday.
The formal reason for the delay is that official appointments and mandates for members of the commissions have not been completed. The PM's office was unable to consolidate the mandate for the Admoni commission, which is to investigate the political echelon. Additionally, pursuant to Defense Minister Amir Peretz's opposition, the second commission, led by Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, has not renewed its investigations.
In a committee meeting on Tuesday morning, eight MKs voted in support for the initiative calling for a state commission, including representatives from opposition parties and the Labor party. Three committee members – from Shas and Kadima – were opposed.
The initiative to create a commission led by a judge was the result of a joint effort by Matan Vilnai (Labor) and Effie Eitam (National Union-NRP) and was brought up in the meeting, despite the disapprobation of committee Chairman Tzachi Hanegbi.
Matan Vilnai took advantage of the situation in order to appeal to already appointed members of the existing commissions not to cooperate. "I call upon you to behave like the Shahak commission and resign. You are serving as a tool for something inappropriate."
According to Vilnai, "this is not a political issue. Whoever will investigate the issue thoroughly will find that the trouble started from the connection between military and politics, and you know what I'm talking about."
Vilnai spoke with Ynet and claimed that the chairman of his party, Amir Peretz, was chosen for the role of defense minister as a result of political calculations, and that it was clear from the start that he was not the correct candidate for the job.
"Nothing will help the government. This will end in a state commission. The vote took place at my behest and the behest of MK Eitam, who come from opposite sides of the political spectrum," he concluded.
Eitam stated that the decision is "the first rational, ethical public statement" and said that the government cannot ignore the lack of confidence expressed by the MKs regarding its chosen investigative process. "I hope and I'm sure that the government will return to the high road."
Ethical and public implications
MK Ephraim Sneh also supported the call for a state commission of inquiry, regardless of being a member of the coalition. "The commission's job is to investigate the government, and as such it is our duty to vote for it," he explained.
Silvan Shalom (Likud) who, concurrently, is enlisting MK signatures on a petition on the issue said, "Today's vote has very, very large public and ethical implications. The public says its piece through the MKs and we, in essence, express its desires. The committee made a dramatic statement. In order to learn lessons from this war and earn back the public's trust, it is our duty to establish a state commission of inquiry."
One of the opponents of such a commission was MK Shlomo Benizri (Shas), who called his colleagues "hypocrites" participating in a political vote sparked by personal interest.
Benizri claimed that "the right wing voted for it in order to topple the government and the Labor party voted for it against Amir Peretz, when, during the war, all of these hypocrites supported the moves of the government and the army."
Hanegbi, as aforementioned, opposed Eitam and Vilnai's initiative and said that the vote was "pathetic". His words aroused the wrath of his colleagues, particularly MK Ami Ayalon (Labor), who responded that Hanegbi was running the committee like a "Persian market".
"I'm embarrassed to be a member of a committee led by you," he continued. Eitam commented that such a statement does not respect the institution of the Knesset.
Ronny Sofer contributed to the report