eliyahu winograd 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Winograd Committee on the Second Lebanon War will not make recommendations for sanctions to be taken against anyone involved in the failures of the government during and leading up to the war, Channel 2 and the Ynet news site reported on Monday.
This means the panel will not have to issue any cautionary letters and will be able to publish its final report before the end of the year, according to Ynet. If the reports on the letters of caution are true, witnesses will not have to hire lawyers, study the evidence against them and argue their cases before the committee, a procedure that was expected to have delayed the final report by many months.
A spokesman for the Winograd Committee refused to comment on the news reports. "We are not responding to or addressing them," Eli Shaked told The Jerusalem Post.
Olmert's associates expressed cautious optimism about the decision, saying that it was good news but also expressing concern it might expedite the publication of a report that could be very critical of the prime minister.
Vice Premier Haim Ramon said the decision would stabilize the government and allow the public to decide for itself regarding how the government handled the war.
"This decision guarantees the government's stability and allows it to implement the Winograd Committee's recommendations," said Kadima MK Yoel Hasson, who is close to Olmert. "Labor has no more excuses to leave the coalition, so now they can stay in the government until 2010."
The Likud called upon Labor chairman Ehud Barak to keep his promises to leave Olmert's government when the final Winograd Report is released and to work to advance the next election. Barak's office declined to respond to the reports, calling them speculative.
If such a decision was indeed taken by the committee, it would appear to violate the promise it gave to the High Court of Justice during a hearing on September 4. The hearing involved two petitions demanding that the panel promise it would send cautionary letters to potential victims of its final report and grant them all of the protections provided by law to those who stand to be harmed by the findings of state commissions of inquiry.
The Winograd Committee is a government-appointed committee of examination that is not covered by the State Commission of Inquiry Law.
Nevertheless, the committee's lawyer, Zvi Agmon, told the court it would act in accordance with the State Commission of Inquiry Law and send out letters of caution to anyone who stood to be harmed by the committee. The petitioners insisted that in accordance with that law, a person could be harmed by the commission even if it did not recommend punitive measures against him.
According to Article 15 (d) of the law, "The commission of inquiry is permitted not to send a letter of caution to a given person so long as it is convinced that there is nothing in the investigation that could hurt him and that the commission's report will not including findings or conclusions and will not make recommendations regarding him."
In other words, a person stands to be hurt by a commission of investigation even if no measures are recommended against him, if he is strongly criticized in the description of the facts or the conclusions reached by the committee. Thus, even if the Winograd Committee has indeed decided not to publish personnel recommendations, it is not necessarily absolved of the obligation to issue letters of caution, with all the time-consuming procedures that such a move entails.