Mazuz to PM: State Commission Most Appropriate

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz informed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that appointing a state commission of inquiry is the appropriate way to investigate the Lebanon war, government sources said yesterday.

Mazuz, they said, did not actually recommend that the government appoint a state commission of inquiry, and has expressed support for Olmert's position that such an inquiry would search for people to blame and make it difficult for the government to conduct affairs of state. The sources said Mazuz's statement, which came in a letter he sent Olmert in August, was not a binding legal opinion, but a survey of the legal options the government had for investigating the war.

"The attorney general explained in his conversations that this is a decision by the political echelon, and not a legal matter," the Justice Ministry spokesman said yesterday. "The attorney general's job was limited to mapping out the legal possibilities for the prime minister."

Meanwhile, the state is due to explain tomorrow, in accordance with a ruling by the High Court of Justice on Thursday, why it did not establish a state commission of inquiry. The government has instead appointed the Winograd committee, a lower-level government review panel, in a decision made by Olmert with the participation of Mazuz.

The High Court said that in their answer, Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the government must address "the scope of the powers of the government review panel to investigate a subject of general national importance and the extent of the propriety of the process of appointing a review panel by the government."

Political sources said that despite the critical language used by the court, they did not expect the justices to invalidate the Winograd committee appointment, which was made in accordance with the procedures set in the law on government powers.

The legal options were presented to Olmert in the Mazuz letter, which ran to three pages. The options included a state commission of inquiry or a clarification committee, both in accordance with the law on inquiry committees; a government review panel, in accordance with the law on government powers; a committee appointed by the defense minister, in accordance with the law on military jurisdiction; and a request that the state comptroller prepare a report.

For each option, Mazuz added a short section analyzing the law and its legal significance. The only section where he expressed his opinion was in relation to a state commission of inquiry, which he described as the appropriate method in the existing statutory situation.