Mazuz: War probe panel could get investigative power

Watchdog organization to press for establishment of an independent state committee of inquiry.

The committee established by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to examine the role of the political echelon in the recent war could be granted investigative prerogatives, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said earlier this week. He added that he would advise Olmert on this matter. Mazuz also said he had presented Olmert with a list of all the options available to him to investigate the various aspects of the war. One of the options was the internal committee of inquiry picked by Olmert. He also said he told Olmert that he could split the investigation among different committees, and that Olmert had ultimately chosen to do so. Mazuz said the document he gave the prime minister included several possibilities, including appointing a state judicial committee of inquiry, a parliamentary committee of inquiry, a government examination committee in accordance with the Government Law, a non-statutory committee appointed by the government, a military committee of inquiry in accordance with the Military Adjudication Law and an investigation by the state comptroller. He also made it clear to Olmert that "at the end of the day, the power to choose among the options is in the hands of the political echelon." Once the decision had been made, he continued, he would provide Olmert with legal advice, keep an eye on the implementation of the decision, check to see whether there were possible conflicts of interest regarding committee members, help in drafting the letters of appointment and whatever other decisions were necessary. He emphasized that the defense minister could appoint a statutory committee according to section 537 of the Military Adjudication Law and that such a committee had the right to summon witnesses and take testimony. In other developments, Yehoshua Roth, a senior assistant to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, declined to confirm reports that Lindenstrauss was considering expanding his investigation to include aspects of the decision-making process in the political echelon. Lindenstrauss initiated a public spat with Olmert on Tuesday, when he accused him of interfering with his independence by announcing he would ask the state comptroller to investigate the lack of preparedness of the home front before and during the war. Roth told The Jerusalem Post Lindenstrauss has the legal power to expand his investigation, but would not say whether or not he intended to do so. Also, the watchdog organization Ometz has scheduled a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday to press its demands for the establishment of an independent state committee of inquiry. The organization petitioned the High Court of Justice immediately after the fighting, demanding that such a committee investigate the performance of Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz before and during the war. The court scheduled a hearing for Sunday, but Ometz asked for a postponement because the government was in the midst of deciding how to investigate the war. According to an Ometz spokeswoman, Mazuz opposed the postponement on the grounds that it was obvious the court would reject the petition out of hand, and therefore was no point in delaying it. However, the court decided to grant the postponement. Now, Ometz is trying to generate public support for its position.