Analysis: Winograd members not resigning... yet

Are Wingorad members flaunting false threats just so they'd be left alone?

winograd 88 (photo credit: )
winograd 88
(photo credit: )
Sources close to the Winograd Committee told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that reports to the effect that some committee members were thinking of resigning were taken out of proportion. The source would not elaborate, except to say that the committee was waiting to see how the court would rule on the petition of Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On and would "take it from there." He did not categorically deny that there could be resignations in the future. Gal-On is demanding that the committee release the censored testimonies of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former chief of General Staff Dan Halutz before it publishes its interim report, which is due in less than two weeks. On Monday, Channel Two and Channel One reported that some of the committee members were angry at the High Court for its handling of Gal-On's current petition, as well as an earlier one, and would step down if the panel of five justices ruled in her favor. The committee informed the court earlier this week that it was prepared to publish the censored testimonies of the three war leaders two weeks after it releases the interim report. Thus, Gal-On and the committee are now fighting over a period of time amounting to less than one month. However, both sides claim the period under dispute is critical. Gal-On argues that the censored testimonies should be published prior to the interim report so that the public will be able to better assess the committee's findings because they can see for themselves what the key figures in the war told it. The committee insists that it must devote all its time and effort to publishing the interim report if it wants to meet the deadline it set for itself. In fact, however, the dispute is not only between Gal-On and the committee. The court has already forced the committee to do things it did not intend to do and was certain it was not legally bound to do. During the first stage of its investigation, the committee held all its hearings behind closed doors on the grounds that all the testimonies contained sensitive information vital to state security. It believed that the law allowed it to do so on those grounds. It also did not intend to publish the testimonies at any point. The members believed that witnesses would speak more freely and that it would therefore be easier to get to the truth if they could speak in total privacy. Gal-On filed her first petition towards the end of the first round of testimony. She accused the committee of violating the public's right to know and demanded that those hearings which did not involve secret information be opened to the public. She also insisted that the committee publish the testimonies, after censorship, which had already been given behind closed doors. The court essentially sided with Gal-On. It was critical of the committee's emphasis on secrecy and said it had sacrificed the public's fundamental right to know on the altar of national security. It ordered the committee to publish those sections of the testimony which did not contain classified information vital to national security. However, it appeared to give the committee a large degree of leeway in implementing the ruling. It ordered the committee to do so in reasonable time and not later than before it released its final report. Committee members felt that the court's decision constituted improper intrusion on its prerogatives according to the law. But, of course, it had to comply. However, when several weeks went by and no testimonies were yet forthcoming, Gal-On petitioned again. This time she demanded that the committee provide a timetable for releasing all the testimonies and that those of Olmert, Peretz and Halutz be published before the committee released the interim report. The committee was taken aback by the petition. The members believed there was no justification for it since they felt they were well within the limits of "reasonable time" and since the court had not even mentioned the interim report in its ruling. But when the state's representative, Attorney Osnat Mandel, said as much to the court, Justice Eliezer Rivlin shocked her by responding that the committee was close to being in contempt of court. Despite its shock, or perhaps because of it, the committee promised a few days later to release the first testimonies immediately and those of Olmert, Peretz and Halutz a few days after that and before publication of the interim report. But then it reversed itself and told the court it would publish the three testimonies only after the interim report was released. It tried to explain that many unforeseen difficulties had emerged in deciding what to publish and what to censor. But the court, headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, would hear none of it, saying it should be no problem to determine what in each testimony was vital to state security and what was not.