Prof. Dror censured for post-Winograd comments

But Knesset panel votes not to launch inquiry into conduct of war probe.

Dror stern 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Dror stern 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Knesset State Control Committee fell short of launching a formal commission of inquiry into the Winograd Committee Wednesday, despite strongly criticizing comments made by committee member Prof. Yehezkel Dror to various media outlets in early February. The Knesset committee members unanimously agreed on a statement that censured Dror for stating his own political considerations in interviews following the release of the Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War. "My interviews in Ma'ariv and The Jerusalem Post were intended to help the public decide how to weigh up its opinions. I think I misjudged the public's ability to understand what they were reading," Dror told the committee. In the series of interviews conducted in the week after the report's release, Dror made comments that prompted questions as to whether the Winograd panel had "softened" its final report to protect Prime Minister Ehud Olmert so he could continue his peace negotiations with the Palestinians. "If we believe the prime minister will advance the peace process," Dror told Ma'ariv, "that is a very respectable consideration. The peace process, should it succeed, will save so many lives that it must be given a lot of consideration. We should not look at only one side. What would be better - a Barak-Olmert government, or new elections that could lead to a victory by [Likud leader Binyamin] Netanyahu?" Following Ma'ariv's initial publication of his comments, Dror charged that "the words that were quoted in a distorted way and attributed to me did not constitute my personal opinion and were said in a conversation with a reporter in which we discussed how the public ought to weigh public issues involving values. They did not include any kind of statement of opinion regarding any members of government. They absolutely do not reflect my private opinion and were not raised in any discussion of the Winograd Committee." At Wednesday's committee meeting, Dror added that he had not meant to endorse one prime minister over another, and that Netanyahu could "also advance peace, perhaps in a different way than Prime Minister Ehud Olmert." "In retrospect," he acknowledged, "I might have chosen different words during [those] interviews." But he insisted, nonetheless, that "my decision to speak to the press was the right one, I believe... It was meant to help the public during their own personal deliberations over the report." The public, Dror said, should not construe his words as the expression of an unequivocal support of Olmert and the peace process. "To draw conclusions from newspaper headlines, without reading, without looking into the matter, is a sign of [the public's] distrust, suspicion and borderline hostility [toward the government]," Dror said. "There is a difference between disagreements on fundamental principles and going up in arms over a headline in the paper." Dror said he had no idea as to the political affiliations and opinions of his fellow Winograd Committee members. "We sat in the committee for almost six months, and I don't know the opinions of the rest of the committee members and they don't know mine. Is a newspaper headline enough to defame a committee?" MK Michael Eitan (Likud) defended Dror by slamming the media, saying that "everyone who has ever been interviewed by the media should know what it feels like to be misrepresented." However, State Control Committee chairman Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP) said that despite Dror's explanations, he still felt it was inappropriate for the Winograd Committee members to state their personal political preferences. "I am practically positive that 90 percent of those who read the [Ma'ariv] interview would answer in the affirmative if asked whether Prof. Dror had expressed a political opinion," said Orlev, who added that the interview "raised questions and perhaps even sullied the Winograd Committee, which was allegedly skewed by political considerations, and this necessitates an inquiry." MK Limor Livnat (Likud) joined Orlev in expressing serious doubt over the "fairness" of Dror's decisions. "Prof. Dror clearly called for the public to continue supporting the Olmert government," said Livnat, telling Dror, "The public understands perfectly well what you wanted to explain to it: that Olmert and Barak should be kept in power." She added that political opinions may have influenced the decision "not to refer to the political echelon [in the Final Report] in more lucid terminology." The State Control Committee could have forced a commission of inquiry into the Winograd Report, if they had voted that Dror's comments were inappropriate enough to have tainted the report. That commission, in turn, could have led to a new government commission of inquiry into the Second Lebanon War. While opposition MKs said they were disappointed that the committee did not take the necessary steps to launch an inquiry, coalition MKs stressed that it was time to "move on" and institute the reforms proposed in the Winograd Report.