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For the first time in Knesset history, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will interview soldiers and officers who fought in southern Lebanon during the latest battle against Hizbullah as part of the committee's investigation into failures during the war.
In order to better examine the military's performance in southern Lebanon, Committee Chairman Tzahi Hanegbi has divided the investigation into six sub-committees, which will be headed by MKs Hanegbi, Danny Yatom (Labor), Ami Ayalon (Labor), Matan Vilna'i (Labor), Amira Dotan (Kadima) and Yuval Steinitz (Likud).
The three Labor MKs had been among the most critical of Hanegbi's delay in establishing the investigation.
"Everyone was part of the discussion and my decision in forming these six committees," said Hanegbi. "The delay was due to waiting to see how the government would decide to check itself."
Last week, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert drew significant criticism for his decision to forgo a state commission of inquiry in favor of two smaller committees.
To facilitate soldier testimonies to the committee, Hanegbi has arranged for committee members to hold hearings in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Beersheba, in addition to the regular meetings in the Knesset.
"It is the first time we are doing something like this because we feel it is important to hear the information first hand from the soldiers' mouths," said Hanegbi.
The decision was slammed by Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On, whose son also fought in southern Lebanon.
"This is an effort to evade a professional and comprehensive commission of inquiry," said Gal-On.
The results of the Knesset Committees investigation are solely for information purposes, and the committee does not have the mandate to dismiss top officials. As in the past, investigative subcommittees of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee mostly work to place public and legislative pressure on the military establishment to correct itself.