Mofaz and Ezra behaved 'despicably'

Amona Committee's initial findings place blame on all parties involved.

amona clashes 298.88  (photo credit: AP [file])
amona clashes 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The parliamentary committee charged with investigating the violence that occurred during the evacuation of eight structures in Amona some seven weeks ago released its initial findings on Tuesday. The report harshly criticized the government, the police and the heads of the Council of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Yesha) for being jointly responsible for the severe violence that characterized the operation.
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Committee chairman MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) minced no words describing the decisions taken by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, by which police officers would not be permitted to testify before the committee. "I have never encountered such despicable behavior. It sets a dangerous precedent in Israeli parliamentarianism," he said. According to the report, Mofaz and Ezra did not prepare for the operation properly, and did not coordinate their activities with the government in a satisfactory manner. In response to the criticisms, the Defense Minister said that the committee received information and assistance from the security services and that he gave his approval to the participation of the Chief of Staff in the inquiry. However, Mofaz claimed that it was not appropriate for IDF officers to appear at an inquiry with politicians on the eve of elections and to be used "as pawns in the political playing field." Ezra said that he acted according to the law and with the support of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. "MKs should give their support to the police and IDF during their difficult operations," Ezra exclaimed, adding that he would not be dragged into election propaganda at the expense of the police. The committee also accused Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mazuz for "ignoring the harm caused to Knesset laws following Mofaz's and Ezra's actions. "It is clear that Olmert did not confirm that the 'firm but sensitive' directive reached the forces in the field," said the report. The report also accused the police of using excessive force against the demonstrators. It stated that the security forces' use of clubs and horses bordered on illegality. The committee called upon the police to change its policies regarding crowd control, and refrain from using potentially dangerous equipment. The probe also criticized the settlers' leaders for their supposed failure to control the thousands of protesters that flocked to Amona in an attempt to prevent its destruction. Likewise, the report asserts that the results indicate an absence of law enforcement in the West Bank. It stated that the compromise suggested by the Yesha Council, proposing to destroy the structures themselves, had not been formulated thoroughly enough, and doubted whether it could have been implemented. The police did not release an official response, but senior officers insisted they performed their jobs properly, and that the burning of cars of some of their colleagues who participated in the evacuation, spoke for itself. Right-wing parties expressed disappointment, saying the committee should have focused more on the government's - specifically Kadima's - role in the incident. One member of the parliamentary probe, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) told Army Radio that the committee decided to release the initial findings one week before the general elections because once a new government was established, the committee would cease to function unless re-approved by the Knesset.