Photo: Hagai Aharon
Who'll investigate Defense Minister Amir Peretz?
Photo: Hagai Aharon
Who'll investigate the secret seven?
There's a fragile ceasefire in Lebanon, and Amir Peretz is rushing to investigate the security establishment's functioning during the war. But who's going to check out answers provided by the decision makers?

"Commissions of inquiry are great for politicians. They are a great place to bury burning issues," said one worried government minister this week. "Look at the Or Commission that investigated attacks on Arab Israelis at the beginning of the intifada. The political echelon is cleansed, the lower levels pay the price, but much less than would have been expected." 


The mood in the halls of the Knesset and government ministers' offices was focused on the coming investigation of the war's failures. But everyone we spoke to was prepared to wait until the last soldiers are out of Lebanon, to see if the war is realy over, to wait and see if this fragile ceasefire, based on the prowess of the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL, really holds. 


But Defense Minister Amir Peretz isn't waiting. He's appointed the Lipkin-Shahak commission to investigate the defense establishment. Perhaps Peretz would have preferred a commission to investigate the army's performance, rather than the sub-peformance of the policy makers.


Asking questions

The big question from this war is who will investigate Amir Peretz, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni? Who will investigate the secret seven, the cabinet, the government? Who will look into the way in which the decision to go to war was made in a few hours, without considering the depth of the army's ability to fight Hizbullah? Who will investigate the zig-zagging orders?


Who will examine Olmert's Fire Zone of the first kilometer in Lebanon and Peretz's six-to-seven kilometer security zone? Who will look into the orders to throw so many soldiers (and resultant injuries) towards the Litani the last Friday of the war, orders signed jointly by Olmert and Peretz, a moment before the Security Council passed its resolution, with the agreement of Olmert and Peretz?


Who will ask if we should have sacrificed 158 soldiers for diplomatic goals that were not realized? For the release of kidnapped soldiers who remain in captivity? Who will ask if we should have invested more than NIS 20 billion in the war, only to have Hizbullah remain on the border?


Who will ask if it was correct to send a million-plus Israelis to bomb shelters, only to bring them out again with life-long trauma, when Iran and Syria are doing all they can to avoid the UN embargo to re-arm the still-living Nasrallah with new anti-tank weapons that will be coming our way during the next round?


"If there were elections in another month, maybe it would be correct not to establish a commission of inquiry," said one Labor Party government minister. "But there are no elections on the horizon, and the public has no democratic tool to judge those who initiated and administered the war.


"So all that is left is to establish a commission, to demand answers from those who made these decisions. Even if it takes time, until all the soldiers are out of Lebanon and there is a chance to see if the ceasefire is worth more than the paper it's printed on, such a move is necessary to conduct a fundamental investigation at home." 


Livni meets the north

Last Tuesday, a few hours before flying to meet Kofi Annan in New York, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni came to give support to mayors of towns in the north. In the beautiful city hall in Carmiel, Adi Eldar told her he headed the strongest town in the north, but in light of the situation he couldn't guarantee municipal salaries would be paid this month.


Livni's got no checks to hand out, so all she could offer was a bit of sympathy and a vague promise that the national government would not abandon the Galilee.


It was so hot in Tiberias one could see the steam coming off the Sea of Galilee. Mayor Zohar Oved promises Tiberias can withstand another round of fighting. Outside his air conditioned office, security guard Farouk Eliyahu says:


"Tiberias was a ghost town. We've never had anything like it here. Everything was closed: Restaurants, hotels, stores. I say it's too bad Livni, Peretz and Olmert tied our generals' hands. If we were going to pay such a heavy price anyway, we should have finished Hizbullah."


45 minutes to the north, in a room that was once a concert hall, Kiryat Shmonah city counselors are listening to Livni talk about the diplomatic gains of the war. Not everyone agrees, to say the least. Reporters ask the same questions, Livni gives the same answers. 


More criticism

Outside, 48-year-old mother of four Nava Danino sits on a bench. She would have been happy to host Livni at home, to show her the shards of glass caused by the katyusha. She would have asked Livni to help bring insurance adjustors around, so she could clean up already and bring her children home.


The price she paid doesn't appear to her: "Tzipi Livni screwed up, big-time," she said painfully. "I've been wandering around the country with my family for a month, and at the end of the day, they ended it all without even bringing home the soldiers Hizbullah kidnapped." She sat just meters from Livni, but didn't get to speak to the foreign minister.


Wherever Livni, went, similar stories were told and accusations made, about government ministers paying perfunctory visits to discharge their obligations.


"Not one government minister saw fit to spend a night in a bomb shelter. Neither did any Knesset members," said Eli Levi, of Kiryat Motzkin, bitterly.


"Let them come to city hall to see what all the ruckus is all about. They fought this war on our backs, without bothering to find out what it's like to spend a night in a shelter," he said, trying to peep through the sealed windows of the white Volvo parked in the driveway.


"They never breathed the dampness, sat in 35 degree (95 F) heat in a shelter with no air conditioning, or had to deal with frightened infants for five weeks of katyusha attacks."


From the foreign minister's point of view to the embittered north was meant to disrupt the overall picture that sees a link between Jerusalem, Beirut, paris and Washington. With no cynicism at all, she had a lot of sympathy for Levy from Kiryat Motzkin, for Danino from Kiryat Shmonah, and for Farouk from Tiberias. But she had a plan to catch, to go and meet Kofi Annan in New York.  


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