Katsav backs probe into Amona violence

Knesset to hold a special session next week to set up investigative committee.

katsav 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
katsav 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
President Moshe Katsav endorsed Thursday morning the demand of Labor MK Yuli Tamir that an investigation be conducted into the manner in which the demolition of nine permanent houses in Amona was handled on Wednesday. Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, Katsav said that he was still shocked by the impressions left on him by the televised images of the violence at Amona. While insisting that police explain the use of horses and batons, Katsav was equally critical of the settler leadership of Judea and Samaria, which he said had not exerted its influence to deter hotheaded youths from violent action. "All red lines were crossed at Amona," said Katsav, "it was totally unnecessary."
Meanwhile, the Knesset will hold a special session on Amona next week in response to calls to set up a parliamentary investigative committee to look into the violence that occurred Wednesday. Likud, Labor, the National Religious Party and the National Union have all called for an investigation, Army Radio reported. Katsav spoke to reporters during a meeting with Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz who said that Wednesday's chaos was inexcusable. The whole exercise was a failure, Peretz said. Peretz charged the leadership of Judea and Samaria with irresponsibility. Those leaders, especially the MKs amongst them, must take into account that if they had not come to calm a situation of this kind, they would exacerbate it with their presence, he said. Meanwhile, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the leaders of the Right blamed each other for Wednesday's events in Amona, accusing each other of acting under the influence of the upcoming March 28 election. Olmert's associates said that National Union MKs Benny Elon, Effi Eitam and Aryeh Eldad encouraged the violence at Amona by participating in the protest. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said that the settler leadership intended to allow the protest to flare up because they wanted to awaken voters on the Right. "We are seeing violence for the sake of violence, not ideology," Olmert said. Before he was injured, Eldad issued a statement saying that "Olmert is committing this atrocity because he feels that uprooting the settlers will help him in the election." Eldad lashed out at the police, accusing them of treating the settlers "worse than Arabs." Eitam, who was injured by a horse during the evacuation, underwent a CT scan on his head and chest and suffered light to moderate injuries. "For thirty years I fought on the battle fields, and I never believed that I would be wounded by a Jewish policeman while I was doing my duty as a member of Knesset," Eitam said. The National Union Party demanded that a committee be set up to investigate if the conduct of the security forces in Amona included excessive violence. "There needs to be an investigative committee to gauge the violence exerted under (Acting Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert's instructions against settlers and Knesset members." a party spokesman said. On the left, Labor MK Yuli Tamir also called for an investigative committee to be set up to study the evacuation. She said that the mission was conducted poorly, and expressed her belief that it would have been implemented better had Prime Minister Ariel Sharon handled it. She insisted a lesson be learned from what she considered a failure. On Wednesday, Peretz agreed with Olmert that the National Union MKs' presence contributed to the problems in Amona. He said that in such a period of violence, all politicians must put aside politics and the election and stand behind Israel's security forces. "There is no reason why the execution of a legal procedure to evacuate and demolish houses built without permits should cause injuries and a serious crisis between civilians and soldiers," Peretz said. "We shouldn't have come to this situation, I would have prevented this situation." A source close to Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu said that the rule of law had to be enforced but that "the timing of the evacuation could not be coincidental and something fishy is going on." Likud officials expressed concern that the harsh pictures of violence in Amona would result in the Right as a whole and the Likud in particular dropping in the polls. A Dialogue poll broadcast on Channel 10 on Wednesday found that the Likud failed to take advantage of Hamas's election victory last week to gain in the polls. The poll predicted that if the election were held today, Kadima would win 43 seats, Labor 21 and Likud 13. In last week's poll, Kadima won 44, Labor 21 and Likud 14. The poll also found that the percentage of people who believe that Olmert is the most fitting candidate to be prime minister fell from some 40 percent to just 30%. Twenty-four percent said Netanyahu was the most fitting candidate and 21% said Peretz.