Winograd Committee rejects High Court petitions

Committee defends decision not to target specific individuals in its report; calls IDF appeal "absurd."

winograd committee 298.8 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
winograd committee 298.8
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Winograd Committee declared explicitly for the first time Sunday that its final report would not include recommendations, conclusions or facts that could cause injury to any specific individuals involved in the subject of its examination. The panel was established to examine the preparedness of the government and the army for war against Hizbullah since Israel withdrew to the international border with Lebanon seven years ago, and their conduct in the Second Lebanon War, which began on July 12, 2006. "Following in-depth investigations and discussions among the members of the Winograd Committee, its members reached the conclusion that given the broad subject we were asked to investigate, and given the facts that we learned, the most worthy way for the committee to act is not to include personal matters (including facts, conclusions or recommendations regarding individuals) in the final report," the panel said. Also on Sunday, the committee responded to two High Court of Justice petitions filed in response to a terse statement that the panel had issued on October 18, stating that it had decided to give top priority to a section of the government mandate to the committee stressing the need to finish the examination quickly. This meant, committee chairman Eliahu Winograd added, that the final report would be issued before the end of the year. The committee did not spell it out, but the implications of the statement were that it would not issue cautionary letters because according to the law, that would entail a procedure that would take many months to complete. There were additional implications to this deduction, although, again, the committee declined to say so explicitly. If the committee was not going to send cautionary letters, it could not publish facts, conclusion or recommendations regarding individuals who were involved in the years leading up to the war and the war itself, because of a promise made to the High Court regarding an earlier petition. The Military Defender's Office, however, did not want to risk that the committee might break its word to the court. On October 23, it filed a petition demanding that the committee send out cautionary letters to soldiers and officers who stood to be hurt by the committee's report. The Winograd panel's response to the petition was angry, insulting and sarcastic. "The military defender has crossed all the boundaries of good taste," wrote attorney Zvi Agmon, representing the committee. Agmon wrote that the insistence that the committee send out cautionary letters was based on the assumption that the panel would indeed publish facts, conclusions and recommendations related to individuals. "We did not know the military defender was endowed with paranormal skills," the committee wrote. More seriously, Agmon accused the military defender of petitioning the court "to try to cause damage to public faith in the committee and to obstruct the committee's work." The second petition was filed by the Movement for Quality Government several days earlier. It had argued that the committee was obliged by law to draw "personal conclusions" and to make personal recommendations. Agmon replied that the Movement for Quality Government petition "has no place in the High Court. It lacks any factual infrastructure and asks for vague remedies on the basis of incorrect arguments." Agmon wrote that according to the law, the committee could, but did not have to, publish personal conclusions and recommendations. Because the period under examination covered six years, there were too many people involved to draw personal conclusions about any of them, he said.