Under the banner 'The people want a state inquiry,' more than 2,000 protestors assembled Thursday evening outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Jerusalem home, demanding that he form a state commission of inquiry into the war in Lebanon.
Protestors lit dozens of torches and called "Olmert go home." Protestors carried signs bearing the portraits of IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Defense Minister Amir Peretz and PM Olmert himself – all labeled "inquiry dodgers".
Several hours before the demonstration its organizers announced two newcomers to the event – the Bnei Akiva and Hashomer Hatzair youth movements. The Almagor organization for terror victims placed pictures of people killed in terror attacks since 2000 in the square, but did not include those killed in the war. The organization demands that terrorists not be released in a possible exchange for the three kidnapped soldiers.
Yossi Sarid, speaking before the demonstrators, referred to the previous rally held by the protest groups in Tel Aviv: "On my way here I thought about what has happened since the demonstration in Rabin Square – and the conclusions I reached are that Ehud Olmert, who enjoys a seven percent approval rating, is still Prime Minister, Amir Peretz, who has a five percent approval rating, is still Minister of Defense and Dan Halutz is still Chief of Staff. These are facts."
Boos came from the crowd as Sarid said the names of the three men.
Sarid, former chairman of the dovish Meretz party, continued: "All those who were, who still are and who hope to continue to be – theirs is a futile hope," he said. "You (Olmert, Peretz and Halutz) may have won the battle over the state commission of inquiry but you did not win the war. You will lose this war and you will lose it soon. Every decent citizen will not allow this wretched and miserable war to remain orphaned. Its biological fathers are known to the public and the public demands answers from you."
'Those being investigated appoint investigators'
Of the government inquiry committee Sarid said that "Many people refused to take part in it and others were disqualified from taking part. This committee doesn't have the authority, the qualifications or the credibility required and I have serious doubts about its intent and willingness to truly investigate this," he added.
"There is no point in a committee appointed (by the government)" said Sarid to the cheering audience. "The victims of the war from the frontlines and home-front cry – responsibility! Who the hell is taking responsibility here?"
Professor Zeev Sternhall, of the Hebrew University Political Science department, was one of the keynote speakers at the rally.
Speaking to Ynet, Sternhall explained his motives for going onstage: "It seemed obvious to me, I think that this war, the decision made regarding it, its objectives, the manner in which it was run, its consequences… there needs to be a state commission of inquiry into these matters, one that was not appointed by the government."
"It's unthinkable that those being investigated appoint the investigators," said Sternhall, emphasizing that "this is not to smear the existing committee."
Sternhall says that at least two of its members have been close acquaintances of his for many years.
"It is possible to have a defective institution whose members are first-rate. But the institution itself, an inquiry committee appointed by the government to investigate itself, that is unacceptable," he said.
"There will be people from all walks of life this evening, but what they have in common is this issue, which I believe to be of great moral importance and vital to our manner of governing and social norms," Sternhall added.