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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

[Winograd] Panel member: [Israel] Gov't denying Lebanon war probe access to records

Last update - 11:55 06/12/2006

Panel member: Gov't denying Lebanon war probe access to records

By Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondent

Neither government ministries nor the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee are cooperating with the Winograd Committee's investigation of this
summer's war in Lebanon, and as a result, the committee's work has been
delayed, a member of the committee told Haaretz on Tuesday.

But a spokesman for the committee denied this, saying that the panel has
enjoyed complete cooperation from government agencies.

About two weeks ago, the Winograd panel asked the Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee for the protocols of its meetings during and prior to the war.

These protocols reveal the real-time opinions of various defense officials,
and therefore provide a check against the explanations that these same
officials have offered after the fact. As such, they are critical to the

However, the Foreign Affairs Committee refused to hand over the documents,
saying that by law, all of its protocols are classified as "top secret" and
can only be disclosed after 30 years.

According to Committee Chair Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima), there is no precedent
for the committee giving copies of its protocols to anyone, even serving
ministers or Knesset members.

Following this refusal, the Winograd panel began negotiating with the
committee, and in the end, following consultations with both the Knesset's
legal advisor and the Foreign Affairs Committee's legal advisor, the parties
agreed that the protocols would be released upon receipt of a written pledge
from former judge Eliyahu Winograd, who heads the inquiry panel.

In his letter, Winograd promised that the committee's report would not include
any direct quotes from the protocols, and that the secrecy of the material
would be guarded. As a result, the Winograd Committee is expected to receive
the protocols in the next few days.

A similar problem, which seems yet unresolved, relates to documents that the
panel wants from the Foreign Ministry. However, the ministry insists it is
"cooperating fully with the committee. All the documents that have been
requested of the ministry have been transferred. There are additional
documents that will be transferred soon."

The High Court of Justice, which last week decided not to overturn the
government's decision to establish the Winograd panel instead of a state
commission of inquiry, also said that despite its decision not to intervene,
it feared that the panel lacked the powers needed for a thorough investigation
of the war.

But Winograd Committee spokesman Eli Shaked insists the panel has all the
legal powers it needs to obtain documents and summon witnesses, and that all
the committee members feel the government is cooperating fully.

On Wednesday, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz will testify before the
committee. He is considered one of the most important witnesses, because from
1998 until a few months before the war, he served continuously in key defense
posts, first as IDF chief of staff, and later as defense minister. The
committee is expected to ask him about Israel's view of the Hezbollah threat
in the years following its pullout from south Lebanon in May 2000.

On Tuesday, the panel heard testimony from IDF spokeswoman Miri Regev and the
head of the Military Intelligence research division, Yossi Baiditz. Regev was
asked about her unit's informational efforts during the war. Baiditz, who
until May 2005 served as the Northern Command's chief intelligence officer,
was asked what information the Northern Command had about Hezbollah at that

Yuval Yoaz adds: Meanwhile, the Movement for Quality Government asked the High
Court Tuesday to hold a rehearing, with a larger panel of justices, on the
movement's petition against the Winograd Committee.

The court upheld the committee's establishment in a narrow 4-3 ruling last
week, with the minority arguing that the government should be forced to
disband it and establish a state commission of inquiry in its place.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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