Almost a month after the end of the second Lebanon war, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel (MQG), in conjunction with the Baltam Forum – representing reserve soldiers – gathered in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, under the banner 'State Commission of Inquiry Now'. Some 30,000 protestors attended.
Carrying signs reading, among others, 'What is there to hide?', 'Conscience demands inquiry' and 'State, state, state', protestors demonstrated their disapprobation of Olmert's investigative efforts thus far.
Chairman of the Baltam forum Roi Ron told Ynet: "We demand a state commission of inquiry to determine how reserve soldiers were sent to war without ammunition, without protection, without food and without water. Soldiers who hadn't trained in years."
'Do you have a conscience?' reservists write. (Photo: Niv Calderon)
In addition to a state commission of inquiry, Baltam demands a formal renewal of standards of training and equipage of reserve soldiers, as well as the creation of an annual training program for all reserve units.
"We demand that a commission be formed and that a reserves law be legislated to formalize these things. We want a state commission of inquiry led by a senior judge. A commission that has the necessary jurisdiction to investigate the past and the present and to act for the future," Ron added.
Singer Nimrod Lev performed the song "I became a hostage" after being asked to attend the rally by reservists from Jerusalem. Lev said, "I arrived as a resident of the north who experienced 34 days of war…I can tell you that the government's failure regarding the home front is outrageous, the north was simply abandoned by the government…It is my duty as a resident of the north to do my part to help their just struggle."
Protestors of all stripesMQG Chairman Eliad Shraga appealed to the all of the nation to join the rally, which contained people from all sides of the political spectrum. One of the speakers at the rally was former Meretz chairman and minister Yossi Sarid. His presence, said Shraga, was an answer to "all those people (primarily from the Peace Now movement) who portrayed this protest as something orange."
Naveh Tzupkov, a Tel Aviv resident and former officer in the anti-aircraft unit, said that "it's important to investigate all of the problems exposed by this war. Problems that were always present and that everyone in the army knew about. The army is something tiny. A state commission of inquiry has the least dependence on people who took part in this war. It's not dependent on the political sources who are looking to keep their seat."
Yehuda Kahani from Tel Aviv, who lived through all of Israel's wars and the subsequent commissions of inquiry, said that voting by text message was the way to go. "I came to the rally so that people wouldn't say that everyone had stayed home because they think that Olmert was ok."
However, he understands why others didn't do the same. "People are tired of demonstrations and protests, and in my opinion, there needs to be a different way to determine the national opinion. If 'A star is born' (reality TV series) can garner a million and a half votes by text message, I'm sure that millions would vote and say what they really think."
"There won't be a state commission of inquiry. They'll drag their feet, just like they're doing now. A month has passed and what has happened? Spin after spin after spin," he concluded sadly.