Winograd Commission to be canceled? The High Court of Justice on Thursday evening instructed the State to explain within five days why a state commission of inquiry into the political and military echelon's conduct during the second war in Lebanon will not be established.
Following the court order, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel called on the Winograd Commission to honor the High Court decision and halt its activities until a final decision is made.
Commission members said in response that "in principle, the Winograd Commission is continuing to work intensively. If the High Court should rule otherwise, the commission will of course honor its decision. At the moment, the commission is continuing in high pace, according to the appointment it was given. There is no reason to freeze the appointment."
The court reached its decision following a petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel about two weeks ago.
In the petition, the movement asked the High Court to annul the appointment of the Wingorad Commission, claiming that the establishment of a governmental committee instead of a state commission of inquiry was against the law, and asked that a state commission of inquiry be established.
Commission to be annulled? Judge Winograd (second from the left) (Photo: Niv Calderon)
Earlier Thursday, after a number of members of have been disqualified, quit, or were transferred from their posts, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ruled that Meni Ben-Haim cannot serve as Winograd Commission secretary.
In a letter sent to Mazuz by the commission's chairman, retired judge Eliyahu Winograd, it was written that "after an examination of the issues, I have come to the conclusion that there is an obstacle to appointing Mr. Ben-Haim to this post because of a concern that there appears to be conflict of interests and damage to the public faith in the commission's work."
Further on in the letter, Mazuz mentioned that the findings of the investigation he made show that the appointment was made based on practical considerations, however, he chose to disqualify the appointment.
"The appointment was made on the background of acquaintance with Mr. Ben-Haim and his professional capabilities and there was no involvement on the part of the political echelons in any way, shape, or form in the appointment.
"However, as has been reported by Mr. Ben-Haim and as has emerged from investigation, Mr. Ben-Haim's served in the last elections, held a few months ago, as a coordinator in the volunteer headquarters of the Kadima party, which is a leading and central component of the government whose activities and conduct, among other things, the commission is said to examine. I did arise in investigation that Mr. Ben-Haim was alternately a member of the party center and active in the political establishment in the past years," Mazuz wrote.
In response to the attorney general's decision, Ben-Haim told Ynet, "It is important to treat and to see the attorney general's statements as they are."
Ben-Haim emphasized that he revealed to the commission members that eight months ago he volunteered in Kadima and that the commission members chose him at that time because of his qualifications.
The appointment of Ben-Haim as the commission secretary has evoked much anger in the political establishment and among reserve soldiers. Wednesday, the reservists petitioned Judge Winograd to reconsider the appointment of Ben-Haim as the commission secretary.
Among other things, they wrote, "The appointment of central activist in the government party to a sensitive position in the commission charged with examining the functioning of the prime minister casts a dark shadow on the capacity to examine the issue. There is concern that witnesses will be reluctant to give full testimony out of fear that information will be leaked to various government bodies."
At the same time, MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) turned to Mazuz in a letter to examine the appropriateness of Ben-Haim's appointment as Winograd Commission secretary.
According to Erdan, an investigation revealed that Ben-Haim was a central activist in the Kadima campaign headquarters creating suspicion of conflict of interests. He claims that it can't be that a person with political affinity will serve in such a sensitive position. Ben-Haim denies claims of conflict of interests.