(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The state on Sunday rejected a request to release the contents of a letter written by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in which Mazuz allegedly told Olmert he should appoint a state commission of inquiry to investigate the government's handling of the war against Lebanon last summer.
The request was filed last week by the Movement for Quality Government, one of two watchdog organizations demanding that the government-appointed Winograd Committee of Examination into the government's handling of the second Lebanese war be dismissed and replaced by a state commission of inquiry, whose members are appointed by the president of the Supreme Court.
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On August 20, in the wake of public outcries for a state commission of inquiry, Olmert asked Mazuz to present him with the options that the law provided for investigating the war.
Two days later, Mazuz wrote back to Olmert, informing him that there were six different types of investigating bodies available by law to investigate the war. Olmert chose a committee whose members he appointed rather than one whose members were appointed by the president of the Supreme Court.
Recently, the daily Ha'aretz wrote that in the letter Mazuz wrote to Olmert, which was not made public, Mazuz told him that a state commission of inquiry was the proper vehicle for investigating the war.
The Movement for Quality Government wants the letter to be made public to strengthen its arguments when it pleads in court against the Winograd Committee at an upcoming High Court hearing, scheduled for next Sunday.
But the state's representative, attorney Aner Helman, wrote that the letter contained opinions expressed by Justice Ministry officials during an internal meeting in which the participants were meant to express their personal opinions freely.
Helman told the court the letter was divided into two sections. The first was a survey of the six options available to Olmert. The second was "an internal working paper, not an opinion by the attorney-general. It was a summary based on the minutes of the meeting of the things that were said during the consultation, including various considerations about each of the options, the pros and cons of each one as presented by the participants so that the political echelon would have a basis for making up his mind."
"It is a matter of principle not to disclose the letter in order to uphold the principle of confidentiality of discussions and internal consultations," Helman told the court.
He added that if the court insisted on disclosing the letter, the state would present it to the justices to read first, and then let them decide whether it should be made available to the petitioners.