Knesset panel narrowly approves Amona violence probe

Panel will investigate to what extent the possibility of negotiations was exhausted.

Following a fiery debate, the Knesset House Committee approved the establishment of a parliamentary panel to investigate the evacuation of the Amona outpost. The committee passed, by a 10-8 vote, the formation of a panel to investigate whether the possibility for negotiations with the settlers was exhausted before security forces were used, and if the prime minister's office unwisely decided to evacuate Amona. The committee will also have access to various secuirty personnel in order to probe whether excessive violence was used during the evacuation, and whether police used force against MKs present in Amona. Right-wing MKs Arye Eldad (National Union) and Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) charged that it was the Knesset's "right and duty" to examine the violence surrounding the Amona evacuation that led to the injury of more than 200 police officers and protestors. "How can we not take it into our hands to examine this issue?" asked Gideon Sa'ar (Likud). "The citizens of Israel saw the images on their television and now want to know how it came to such violence." Labor and Kadima MKs, however, argued that the establishment of an investigative committee encroached on the division of powers between the High Court and the Knesset. "It is not the place of the parliament to launch such an inquiry," said MK Roni Bar-On (Kadima) who spoke on behalf of the Prime Minister's office. Labor MKs Colette Avital and Ephraim Sneh argued that the investigation would unfairly focus on the actions of security personnel, without examining the decision of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. At the meeting, Likud MKs launched numerous verbal assaults on their former colleague Bar-On, who also recently stepped down as head of the Committee. During his address, Sa'ar charged that Bar-On was attempting to filibuster the meeting and delay the vote. The plenum must still pass a second and third vote on the panel. The panel will only have a mandate to function until the March 28 elections, after which the next Knesset will need to issue a renewed mandate for the panel to continue its work. The House Committee said that the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense committee should serve as the investigative panel.