Don’t censor Gaza war investigation

Plans to delay the release of a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee investigation into Operation Protective Edge until after the election is inherently undemocratic. The public deserves to know the findings before they vote.

Jan. 2, 2015 | 5:30 AM
IDF soldiers mourn at funeral of comrade Moshe Malko killed during Operation Protective Edge.

IDF soldiers mourn at funeral of comrade Moshe Malko killed during Operation Protective Edge.Photo by Reuter

The incoming chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yariv Levin, believes that Israelis would be better off not knowing what happened during last summer’s war in Gaza, as they deliberate over which party to vote for in the March 17 Knesset election. Levin is therefore seeking to delay the release of an investigation by his committee that examined the events involved in the conflict with Hamas and its allies.

Apparently he has good reason for concern: The investigation deals with lapses in the army’s preparedness and in the assembly of the intelligence picture during and prior to the war, as well as the fierce disagreements that raged in the ministerial security committee during the war and influenced how it was conducted. The findings of the probe are expected to expose the Likud party and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to public criticism.

Levin asserted that “the findings are not anywhere nearly ready to be released” and that “it’s clear that every word that will be written in them … will be interpreted as [either] legitimizing or criticizing the government on the eve of the election.” The first part of his statement stands out because of its inaccuracy, and the second part tramples upon the public’s right to know how the leadership, which is now up for re-election, functioned at a critical time such as war.

Four investigations are currently being carried out regarding Operation Protective Edge, as the 50-day military operation in the south last summer, is known. In addition to an internal Israel Defense Forces probe and another by the IDF criminal investigation division, which is looking into suspicions of criminal conduct, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee are also examining the operation.

The committee’s investigation is at the most advanced stage, primarily due to the battles being waged in the army to halt the IDF criminal investigation division’s probe. And according to members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, its own findings could have already been distilled. The delay in the release of those findings not only wrongs the public but also hurts public entities such as the IDF and the ministerial security committee that should be drawing conclusions from those conclusions — since that is the primary goal of the investigation.

Although it quickly dropped off the public agenda, the war was the most difficult and influential event affecting the citizens of Israel during the term of the outgoing government. With the start of the election campaign, the public has heard former cabinet members criticize the way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu functioned during the Gaza war. It is the right of the public to understand the basis of this criticism and to decide whom to vote for based on these findings as well. Deprivation of such a right constitutes the improper politicization of the systems of checks and balances that are meant to function free of political interference in a democratic country.

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