Dror's reported comments spark political backlash

State Control C'tee may order full state commission of inquiry into war if it finds Winograd Report moderated by bias toward PM's future.

Dror stern 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Dror stern 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Speculation that the Winograd Committee may have skewed its report on the Second Lebanon War to safeguard Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's political future boiled over Wednesday - as MKs vowed to investigate the panel's impartiality. The Knesset's State Control Committee could order a full state commission of inquiry into the war if it finds that last week's Winograd Report - which was seen as issuing relatively mild criticism of Olmert's handing of the war - was moderated by bias toward the prime minister's future. "It is very early, but the committee could decide to launch a new state commission if we decide that it is necessary to take another look into the war," said Committee Chairman Zevulun Orlev (National Union-National Religious Party). "We need to examine the [Winograd] Report, and question its judges, before any further steps are taken." Doubts over the report surfaced when Ma'ariv quoted Prof. Yehezkel Dror, one of the judges on the five-member Winograd Committee, apparently admitting that he was influenced by a desire to keep Olmert in power. Dror claimed Wednesday that he was misrepresented, but the State Control Committee has already summoned him to appear at next Tuesday's committee hearing. "We will hear what he has to say and ask our own questions to determine if his decision-making was influenced," said Orlev. "If he says anything similar to what was stated in Ma'ariv, we will have no choice but to ask for a state commission of inquiry that will investigate the personal recommendations issued against the political echelons." According to section 14 (b) of the Knesset bylaws, the Knesset committee could order a state commission if they find compelling evidence that one is needed. A simple majority of the committee would need to vote in favor of a state commission, a vote that would likely pass since eight of the committee's 15 members are opposition MKs, and two of the seven coalition members on the committee, Labor's Shelly Yacimovich and Yoram Marciano, might vote with the opposition. Yacimovich has already suggested that she might call for a new commission of inquiry. "If it turns out that at least one of the members of the committee acted out of political motives, then we must launch a new inquiry," said Yacimovich. MK Esterina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu), who headed the State Control's Committee during and after the Second Lebanon War, tried to apply section 14 (b) in the weeks following the campaign. Tartman soon experienced a personal and political crisis that led her to step down from the committee, and her efforts were put on hold until Orlev's announcement on Wednesday. MKs from across the political spectrum slammed Dror's reported statements, claiming they undermined the integrity and validity of the Winograd Committee's report. Likud MKs took particular exception to the rhetorical questions that Dror launched in the Ma'ariv report. "We must think of the consequences. What do you prefer? A government led by Olmert and [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak or new elections that will give rise to a government led by [opposition leader and Likud Chairman Binyamin] Netanyahu," Dror was quoted as saying. While Netanyahu declined to comment on Dror's reported comments, a senior Likud official said there was no choice by to launch a new inquiry into the war. "It is not just Dror's comments in the papers, it is statements made in the report itself which are concerning," said the official, who pointed to page 46, article 64 of the report, which stipulated that Israel must establish peace with its neighbors. "Who authorized the committee to make political statements? Not everyone in Israel believes in their personal opinions and Dror's latest statements and this sentence within the report itself cast a big shadow on the validity of the report itself," said the official. MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) also issued a clear call for a new investigation. "If a member on the [Winograd] Committee claims that the considerations that guided him pertained to who could bring peace and who would be prime minister, this calls for a state commission of inquiry," Shalom said. MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) said Dror's comments "exposed the lie" behind the Winograd Report. "The committee is corrupt and tainted by political considerations. It now becomes clear why the committee decided not to issue personal recommendations... The report should be tossed in the garbage," Erdan said. Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin said that despite his own support of the peace process with the Palestinians, he was opposed to members of the committee allowing the issue to color their work. "The question regarding the prime minister's ability to promote peace should not have been considered by the members of a public committee of inquiry appointed to investigate the war's failings. This is an issue that the political parties and the public should decide. If this was indeed taken into consideration by the committee, that it has lost its legitimacy," said Beilin.