Olmert's Speech / Third-rate Panels, First-rate Snafu

It was difficult to find even one sentence in the prime minister's speech last night that could not be immediately refuted. Ehud Olmert should have taken his cue from Hassan Nasrallah and admitted that he had misjudged the start of the conflict. Instead, he exchanged places with him, and made typical Nasrallah comments. How the tables have turned: Olmert bragged before going to war, and keeps on boasting after it.

He did not fulfill his duty as prime minister yesterday, and tried to pay lip service. Fleeing helter skelter from responsibility, he is trying to prevent the establishment of a state commission of inquiry headed by a Supreme Court justice, and to artificially resuscitate a governmental commission of inquiry headed by a Mossad chief from way back when.

But disgrace has a way of haunting those who try to avoid it. The specter of a state commission of inquiry will haunt Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz day and night, and terrify them.

Olmert's main argument against setting up a commission of inquiry worthy of the name was that he refuses to plunge the chief of staff and the country into an exhausting maelstrom that could go on for years.

In the same breath, he announced three simultaneous inquiries that will force the characters involved to scurry back and forth - because in this war, it is impossible to distinguish between the front and home front, and between the politicians and civilians. After all, any panel wishing to do its job properly will have to listen to all the versions to get the complete picture.

I feel for all those who made the mistake of accepting their appointment to this task. They have violated the public's trust even before their first meeting. The public was hoping to be informed of the truth and has been given a fig leaf instead. The appointed members may have good intentions, but the one who appointed doesn't. If these committees do complete their task, they themselves will have to be investigated one day.

Most of the members have neither the means nor the qualifications to conduct a real inquiry. They were chosen by default when their betters declined to collude in an escape strategy for the cabinet and General Staff. These are third-rate committees for a first-rate foul up.