PM to appoint new panel to probe war

Ministers call for independent committee to regain public's trust.

With public pressure mounting for the establishment of an independent committee of inquiry to look into the management of the war in Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet Sunday he had discussed the matter with Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and would inform the ministers within a few days of the type of committee to be set up. It was not clear whether this would be a full-blown state commission of inquiry - like the one created following the Yom Kippur War, which had the authority to subpoena witnesses and recommend legal sanctions against individuals - or a hybrid type of committee, set up by the cabinet, with less power. Nevertheless, as more and more reservists began going public with complaints about how both the political and military echelons managed the war, some ministers called for an independent committee of inquiry to regain the confidence of the public in the government and the army. Science and Technology Minister Ophir Paz-Pines said such a committee was the government's obligation and criticized the committee of inquiry set up by Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter also criticized the committee Peretz set up, saying it was unacceptable that each ministry set up its own committee of inquiry. Amid a widespread feeling in the cabinet that another round of fighting was just around the corner, Dichter said the lessons of any committee established needed to be learned rapidly and that Israel did not have the time to wait years for a state committee of inquiry to investigate how the war was managed and draw its conclusions. A state committee of inquiry would do exhaustive work, Dichter said, but would take time. He said he would look positively on the establishment of a state committee of inquiry if it had a time limit. But if not, he said, another mechanism should be found. National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer expressed similar sentiments, asking what good recommendations would be in a few years' time. "We need to draw the conclusions now, not in another three years," he said.