(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Monday that he intended to assign a "team" to investigate the Israel Defense Forces' conduct of the war in Lebanon and their preparedness before the war.
"As Defense Minister, I intend to appoint a team that will conduct an intensive, comprehensive investigation of all the events leading up to the war and during the war," Peretz said.
Despite Peretz's pledge, voices from both the right and left called for establishing a formal investigative committee that would examine the government's performance during the Lebanon war.
The issue is expected to be raised at a Knesset session on Monday afternoon, when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will address the plenum at 4 p.m., followed by Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
An investigative committee would have to be approved by the government, but the Knesset's Defense and Foreign Affairs committee could create a parliamentary investigative committee of its own.
MK Zehava Gal'on (Meretz) called on Olmert and Peretz to resign because of a "failure of leadership" on their part. "I think the nation, which at first put its support behind the government, has come to its senses and realized it was hoodwinked and deceived," Gal'on said on Israel Radio.
MK Benny Elon (National Union) said, "An investigative committee was needed, even if personal conclusions had to be drawn."
According to Elon. "An investigation would have to scrutinize the political and military echelons in their handling of the war both on the frontlines and on the home front."
"Since 2001 the government has had contingency plans for dealing with a war emergency on the home front, including housing arrangements for residents of the North, but not a single government office bothered to implement these plans," Elon said.
He added that army officers who appeared before the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee said that an operation aimed at reaching the Litani River would take a month, but the army tried to do this in 48 hours. Not raising an investigative committee, Elon said, would be a "joke."
Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin also called for the establishment of a committee to investigate the events of the war. Beilin said there were serious questions to be asked about the preparedness of the home front and how decisions were made leading up to the war.
The questions, he said, were "whether it was possible to prevent the kidnapping of the soldiers, whether the Pandora's Box of Lebanon had to be opened, and whether it was possible to reach a deal with Syria and avoid the Hizbullah threat."
Beilin added that shelters had not been built in Arab communities, that the needy had been neglected, and that the war had deepened social divisions.
MK Zvi Hendel (National Union) said that it was still early to talk about an investigative committee as long as IDF soldiers were still in Lebanon and the war was, in his words, continuing. Nevertheless, there were questions to be asked about the army's preparedness, Hendel said.
Justice Minister Haim Ramon rejected calls to launch investigative commissions. According to Ramon, who spoke with Israel Radio, "Obviously conclusions have to be drawn after war. However a judicial committee is not the way to go since it is just a code name for a witch-hunt."
"History shows that a judicial committee does not seek long-term solutions and implementations but rather focuses on the personal level," Ramon said. He admitted, however, that "not everything was done absolutely right."