Reservists demand inquiry into war

Growing protests call for government's resignation, await PM's decision on commission.

probe protest 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
probe protest 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
A mushrooming protest by hundreds of reserve soldiers against the government's handling of the war in Lebanon enters it second week on Sunday, with the government expected to announce the formation of a commission of inquiry in an effort to quash protesters' calls for the resignation of the country's wartime leaders. Hundreds of Israelis, including a group of 70 cyclists, visited the tent headquarters of the protesters in Jerusalem's Rose Garden over the weekend, offering moral support, as well as food and other supplies, to the dozens of reservists who have been camped out there, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Defense Minister Amir Peretz and chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz. On Friday, hundreds of protesters, including bereaved families, gathered at the Jerusalem graveside of former Prime Minister Golda Meir, who resigned in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The bereaved families in the crowd called on the government to resign. "I am hurt not only by your loss but also by an entire nation that has lost its way and by its leaders who are not able to take responsibility and say 'We were wrong,' and for this they need to resign," said Alifaz Bailoa, who lost his son Nadav in the war. "I call at this time on the government of Israel: Take responsibility. Resign. You have done enough damage," he said. The week-long protests have failed to attract large numbers of demonstrators, calling into question whether the protest will be be able to gain traction in the coming week as organizers had hoped, or whether it will simply fizzle out over time. The future of the protests may ultimately be determined by whether a state commission of inquiry, which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has opposed until now, is formed, which would realize one of the protest's key goals. Any other probe, such as a governmental commission of inquiry, which the government would clearly prefer, is unlikely to satisfy the protesters' demands. The demonstrators have also been divided into diverse groups with varying goals, including some - spearheaded by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel - who would be satisfied with the establishment of a state commission of inquiry, while others are demanding nothing short of the government's resignation. The two groups are working independently of each other. Over the weekend, protesters were also facing allegations by Peace Now that right-wing activists, eager to overthrow the government, were financing some of the protests, which have been careful to maintain an apolitical voice until now, and which, if proven, could spell trouble for the demonstrators. Meanwhile, a group of Israeli prisoners of war from every war in the state's history are planning to demonstrate Sunday outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem for the release of the three soldiers kidnapped earlier this summer. The ex-prisoners, who will carry signs featuring the number of days since the soldiers' kidnappings, have announced they would continue to demonstrate every Sunday until the soldiers were released.