Military Advocate General Asks Court to Freeze War Probe Report

MAG to request Winograd report halted until ruling issued on right of IDF officers to respond to findings against them.

The office of the Military Advocate General (MAG) asked the High Court of Justice on Monday to halt the publication of the Winograd Committee's final report on the failures of the Second Lebanon War until a ruling is issued on the right of response for Israel Defense Forces officers who stand to be harmed by the report.

The probe committee informed the High Court on Sunday that its final report will not contain findings, conclusions or recommendations about individuals, obviating the need for sending out warning letters to individuals who might be harmed by its contents.

"The committee members reached the conclusion," the Winograd Committee said in its letter to the court, "that the most appropriate route is not to include personal matters in the final report." This is the first time the committee has declared its intentions in this regard.

About two months ago the committee promised the High Court to send warning letters to any individuals who might be harmed by findings, conclusions or recommendations in the final report. Later, the chairman of the committee, retired judge Eliyahu Winograd, announced that the committee had decided to accelerate its work and to publish the final report before the end of 2007, a decision that would have consequences for the report's contents.

On Sunday, however, in its response to High Court appeals by the MAG and the Movement for Quality Government, was the first time the committee explained that decision.

A senior source in the MAG said Sunday that the committee was evading its promises to allow those who might be harmed by the report to appear before the committee, to question witnesses and the like. "Even if the committee's findings will refer to systemic and not personal failures, it will be clear who was behind them. They must be granted the right to defend themselves."

In its announcement to the High Court, the war probe committee wrote that "the extent of the issues and the large amount of material that has piled up on the committee's table led it to the conclusion that the wider the scope of the examination, and the more it becomes clear that the failures that were revealed were an issue of policy and of judgment over time on the part of various people during various periods, and that the failures resulted from organization cultures, from social ethos and from political ethos, the more the issuing of personal findings, conclusions and recommendations misses the original point of the committee."

"It is not appropriate," the letter said, "to focus on a small number of present-day office holders and not to deal with all of the office holders over the years." According to the committee, "the argument that the very nature of the committee obligates it to arrive at personal conclusions or to make personal recommendations must be rejected."

The committee's letter added that "it would appear that the MAG has completely crossed the line. We wish to settle accounts with the MAG for arguing that we do not intend to honor the High Court's ruling. What is the foundation for this harsh and unrestrained conclusion? We were not aware that the MAG has supernatural powers and can predict the future ... There is nothing left to do but to conclude that the entire purpose of the petition is to attempt to undermine the public trust in the committee and to throw a monkey wrench into its work."

According to a statement issued Sunday by the IDF Spokesman's Office on behalf of the MAG, "The committee's response, with all due respect, ignores the main point - the committee's promise to the court and the MAG to indicate the manner in which the right of response and examination [of evidence] will be given. The committee did not indicate why the right will not be given. The MAG very much respects the committee, and we regret the committee's responses. The [MAG's] petition is based entirely on explicit obligations undertaken by the committee, and to our regret it is not clear why it is no longer keeping them."