Knesset panel weighs probing Winograd

Zevulun Orlev is considering calling for a judicial inquiry to issue personal conclusions.

zevulun orlev 298 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
zevulun orlev 298 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Knesset State Control Committee Chairman Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) is considering calling for a judicial commission of inquiry to continue the work of the Winograd Committee on the Second Lebanon War. The controversial quote attributed to Winograd panel member Yehezkel Dror in Wednesday's edition of Ma'ariv was accurate, Orlev told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "The quote was not taken out of context," said Orlev in a telephone interview after reading the full text of the Ma'ariv interview. "What Dror said was grave and severe. His words arouse very, very heavy concerns." On Wednesday, Ma'ariv published excerpts from the interview; the full text is due to appear in Friday's paper. In the excerpts, the Hebrew daily quoted Dror as saying, "If we believe that the prime minister will advance the peace process, that is a very worthy consideration [in deciding whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should be ousted for his performance during the Second Lebanon War]. If it succeeds, the peace process will save so many lives that it should be given heavy weight. It is not right just to look at one side." The report triggered a huge political controversy in which members of the opposition, to which Orlev belongs, charged that the Winograd panel had been biased in favor of the government all along. Dror denied the allegations. In a statement issued later Wednesday, he said, "The words that were quoted in a distorted way and attributed to me did not constitute my personal opinion and were said in a conversation with a reporter in which we discussed how the public ought to weigh public issues involving value-judgments." The Winograd panel issued a statement declaring: "During the work and deliberations of the committee, no one ever raised considerations regarding questions such as who was worthy of leading Israel at this time. We also do not know the points of view of the committee members on this matter." Orlev has invited Dror to a State Control Committee meeting on Tuesday during which MKs will hear his explanation of his comments at first hand. Dror told the Post that he would attend. Orlev told the Post he would be coming to the meeting with an open mind. However, if after hearing Dror, a majority of the committee members were convinced that his actions and decisions were politically motivated, they would vote to establish a judicial commission of inquiry to continue the investigation at the point where the Winograd governmental committee of inquiry left off, Orlev said. "The Winograd Committee stopped at the point in which it had presented the facts," he said. "It did not reach [personal] conclusions and it is possible that it did not do so for political reasons. A judicial commission of inquiry can reach those conclusions. It can base itself on the Winograd findings. We don't have to gather all the material again. We will accept the Winograd findings as they are. But now we will draw conclusions regarding only the political echelon, which includes three or four people." Later, Orlev emphasized that the conclusions would apply to ministers who served or were still serving in the current government, including Olmert and former defense minister Amir Peretz. They would exclude the military and civil servants. Orlev added that those who were cautioned by a judicial commission would have all the rights to defend themselves as specified in the State Commission of Inquiry Law. These rights include hiring lawyers, studying the material gathered by the commission, and cross-examining witnesses. Orlev said this procedure should only take "three months." Asked whether he did not fear that appointing another commission to pick up where the Winograd Committee left off would demoralize the public, Orlev replied, "On the contrary. As things stand today, I think Prof. Dror created an impossible situation in which the confidence of many people in the Winograd Committee has been undermined because they say Dror was influenced by political considerations. A new commission of inquiry will restore public confidence." Asked whether he wasn't satisfied by the statement of all five members of the Winograd Committee that they had never discussed who should be prime minister, Orlev said, "Maybe Dror was the only one [who was politically motivated.] So what? Does that make it legitimate? Maybe this one man influenced all the others. He didn't say he was politically motivated, but he made all kinds of suggestions. He didn't say why he made them. Maybe they accepted the suggestions without knowing why he had made them."