Knesset reapproves Gush Katif inquiry, despite legal opposition
Judicial commission will investigate handling of the Gush Katif evacuees, despite the A-G's opinion.
By DAN IZENBERG
The Knesset State Control Committee on Monday approved the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the handling of the Gush Katif evacuees according to the mandate it had drafted, despite the attorney-general's opinion that it had exceeded its authority.
On July 30, the committee voted nine to three, with two abstentions, to establish a judicial commission of inquiry after monitoring for more than two years the progress being made by the government regarding problems revealed in a special report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on the evacuees in 2006.
However, the committee called on the judicial commission of inquiry to investigate more issues than Lindenstrauss had investigated in his report.
After the commission's mandate was formulated by the committee, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz wrote to its chairman, Michael Eitan, asking him to change his mind and not appoint a commission. "The request to the president of the Supreme Court to appoint a commission of inquiry according to the mandate [drafted by the committee] exceeded the committee's authority because it included additional subjects than those considered by the state comptroller in his report of February 2006," Mazuz wrote.
During Monday's meeting, Lindenstrauss said the proper interpretation of the law should be a broad one and it was thus interpreted in a High Court of Justice ruling over the 1983 stock market crisis. Therefore, the committee was entitled to order the judicial commission to investigate a broader spectrum of issues than those addressed by the state comptroller.
He added that his office was about to publish four more reports on various aspects of the resettlement of the evacuees including finding jobs, reestablishment of businesses and social care.
Deputy Attorney-General Yehoshua Schoffman said the law which allowed the State Control Committee to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry was meant to be used sparingly and had been used only once until the 17th Knesset. However, former chairman Zevulun Orlev had appointed three commissions during his term. "The commission of inquiry is an important instrument and should be used sparingly," Schoffman said. He added that the judicial commission of inquiry had been asked to look into issues which the state comptroller was investigating and had not yet published his reports.
"This is putting the cart before the horse," he said.
Orlev charged that the opposition to the establishment of the commission of inquiry according to the committee's mandate was motivated by political rather than legal considerations. He said the committee had established commissions of inquiry to investigate the government's handling of the Holocaust survivors and the national water supply and no one had complained. "Only when it comes to the Gush Katif evacuees does the question of the mandate arise on the part of the government, the attorney-general and the president of the Supreme Court. So what am I supposed to think? That it's a legal issue? No, it's a political issue," said Orlev.
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