ISRAEL: Inquiry commission haunts politicians


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Israel continues to negotiate with the U.S. in an attempt to find the right formula for investigating the flotilla raid that will satisfy everyone. Decision-makers are juggling protecting Israel from an international investigation with protecting themselves.

Meanwhile, the ghosts of inquiries past are rattling around.

Israel is traumatized by the Goldstone report, compiled by South African jurist Richard Goldstone’s fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council after Israel’s three-week-long military operation in the Gaza Strip that ended in January 2009. It didn’t cooperate with the committee and hasn’t quite recuperated from the scathing report.


And then there’s the Winograd Commission, the governmental inquiry committee established after the second Lebanon war in 2006. Public outrage over many aspects of the war was so intense that there was no escaping that one. The interim report contained harsh criticism of the leadership, but the final report fell short of ‘personal recommendations,’ Israeli-speak for rolling heads, and reflected a general weary resignation. As long as the army and home front got itself together, the politics end of it had grown old. By that point the wartime chief of staff and defense minister were long gone anyway -- one resigned, the other replaced -- and the last politician standing was then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He stayed put until corruption allegations forced early elections.

Some might find this a good time to revisit the Winograd Commission and its lessons.

A quick look around the Web reflects the general melee. For days, the main website of the commission had been defaced by Turkish hackers who had broken into dozens if not hundreds of websites lately (this seems to have been fixed Sunday). Another section of the website has been taken over by Israeli social activists, who bought the domain for small change after the government let its ownership lapse last year. Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah could have bought it too and used it for his purposes, wrote the new landlords.

Besides running a few fake blogs on the usurped website -- including one for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- the activists said they left the original materials untouched. Except for the retroactive appointment of a new member of the inquiry commission: Homer Simpson. ‘He is known as a source of inspiration to all Israeli politicians,’ they wrote in Hebrew, explaining that the ‘new management’ appointed him to the committee to illustrate the ‘serious approach’ of the country’s citizens -- state echelons in particular -- to committees at large.

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Image, top: The defaced Winograd Commission website Sunday.

Image, bottom: Homer Simpson on the panel investigating the second Lebanon war, from the Winograd Commission website, now ‘under new management.’