Mofaz, Ezra blast Amona inquiry committee

On Tuesday, a day before the Knesset launched its investigation on the Amona evacuation, security officials sought to undermine the committee. Both Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Interior Security Minister Gideon Ezra told the committee that they would personally appear in place of the officers that the committee had intended to question. "The committee is political and if they have any problems they should deal with politicians and not put the burden on the back of the policemen," said Ezra. Mofaz and Ezra, whose Kadima party strongly opposed the investigation, accused the committee of trying to draw the IDF into unnecessary political discourse. "This is an attempt to obstruct the Knesset from carrying out its work," said Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who chose the panel to conduct the investigation. "Minister Ezra is in need of a democracy lesson." Ezra said that the police did not need to defend themselves. "If somebody has a complaint against an individual policeman, they can go to the Police Investigative Department," he said, adding that it was forbidden for politicians to attack the police or the soldiers in any way. Suggesting that the move by Mofaz and Ezra was more political than ethical, Steinitz said any attempt to block the committee would infringe on the Knesset's authority. Meanwhile, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) who was chosen as part of a three-member panel to assist Steinitz, said that "in order to reach the truth and not provide excuses for Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, I am ready to not take part in the meetings of the Amona committee in which members of the security forces will testify." Ariel, whose religious party lashed out at security officials following the evacuation, said that he would abdicate from those meetings so long as every officer or soldier summoned by the committee appeared. The committee has already been circumvented from interviewing two high-ranking IDF officers, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh and commander of IDF forces in the West Bank Brig.-Gen. Yair Golan. The two were scheduled to appear before the committee Wednesday, but will instead be represented by IDF chief of staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, who asked to appear before any of his subordinates so he could explain the Amona evacuation from the IDF's perspective. Earlier in the day Mofaz consulted with legal advisors including Attorney General Menahem Mazuz to see if he had the legal right to order IDF officers not to appear before the committee. Once he received permission from Mazuz, Mofaz announced he would testify before the committee in place of the IDF. In addition to Steinitz and Ariel, the special committee will also be chaired by MKs Matan Vilnai (Labor) and Ilan Shalgi (Arrow). Other MKS on the committee can take part in the open hearings. While carrying out the evacuation and demolition of nine houses in the West Bank outpost of Amona, the police clashed with thousands of protectors. More than 250 people were injured, including over 80 policemen.