The state commission for investigating the disaster of the first Iran war (2011 ) convened yesterday in preliminary session in the office of Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, with former District Court President Uri Goren, former Mossad and National Security Council head Ephraim Halevy, Maj. Gen. (res. ) Eitan Ben Eliyahu and Prof. Emmanuel Sivan in attendance.
The commission's deliberations will focus on issues of substance and of procedure: how and why the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to war with Iran despite warnings by senior military and intelligence figures and in contradiction of law and precedent governing the decision-making process. Witnesses who have been ordered to appear include, in addition to Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, also President Shimon Peres, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and his predecessor Gabi Ashkenazi, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and his predecessor Meir Dagan, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, former Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
The commission will examine the possible connection between events that were slated to take place at certain times in 2010 and that were thwarted by opposition from Ashkenazi, Dagan and Diskin, with intervention by Peres, and actions taken by Netanyahu and Barak to push Ashkenazi into premature retirement and replace him with Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant. It will also try to determine who was responsible for blocking the emergency appointment of Eizenkot, after completing his term as GOC Northern Command in June, as advisor to the chief of staff - putting him in a position of influence during his leave of absence for studies. Eizenkot is considered an ideological colleague of Ashkenazi, Dagan and Pardo.
Weinstein will be consulted, in accordance with the Basic Law on The Government, on the propriety of convening the cabinet - most of whose members were hearing for the first time, and incompletely, about the various options and their costs - to vote on a military operation that in effect means going to war. The attorney general will be asked whether he had indeed been warned by Ashkenazi, Dagan and Diskin, while in office and after their respective retirement, about Netanyahu's "hasty and frenzied" drive toward war, and whether this warning led to improvement in Netanyahu's conduct or whether it was the failure of the discreet warning that led Dagan to express it publicly.
The commission will examine the implementation of the warning sounded by the Winograd commission, regarding the Second Lebanon War - "the manner in which Israel went to war is unacceptable and must not be repeated itself, without advance preparation of a plan including achievable goals, ways of achieving them, mechanisms of control over the extent of the action and the preparedness of the army and the home front for the fighting."
Senior military and intelligence officials will testify that in opposing the actions of Netanyahu and Barak they followed the Winograd panel's determination that "the supreme obligation of the loyalty of professionals is to their profession and their position and not to their commanders or the organization in which they serve," and that a move toward war by the political leadership demands "leadership, responsibility, strategic vision, good judgment and the willingness and ability to use the knowledge and insights of the professionals. Ideology alone does not dictate decisions."
The Beinisch commission will discuss the authority of the cabinet to order the army to carry out an operation of dubious constitutionality, as well as the duty of the senior command to object to such an order, also in light of the precedent of winter 1973, when deputy chief of staff and GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yisrael Tal protested the constitutionality of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's order to resume the war against Egypt, leading to the withdrawal of Dayan's order.
In this context there will be an examination of Barak's appointment, following Gantz's recommendation, of the military advocate general, whose position also involves advising the chief of staff on the legality of military commands. The commission has been informed that Ashkenazi, outgoing MAG Maj. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit and his predecessor Menachem Finkelstein all advocated the appointment of an expert in international law, such as Deputy MAG Col. Sharon Ofek. Barak refused, on the grounds that it is better to have a military jurist whose specialty is criminal law, such as Brig. Gen. Avi Levi of the Military Court. Barak also relied on the advice of four of Finkelstein's predecessors - Ben-Zion Farhi, Amnon Straschnov, Ilan Schiff and Uri Shoham.
At the height of the deliberations the members of the commission of inquiry were asked to move to a bomb shelter, in the wake of the air raid siren and the echoes of Shihab missiles falling throughout Jerusalem.
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