Politicians Knew Winograd Testimonies Would Be Released

The ministers and politicians who appeared before the Winograd Committee knew their testimony would likely be released and would, in any case, not remain confidential, Haaretz has learned. Most of them knew that their testimony would be released.

"I was told that the rules of testifying in court apply to my testimony," said MK Ophir Pines-Paz, who was Science and Sports minister and a member of the security cabinet during the Second Lebanon War.

"They didn't tell me whether my testimony would be released or not, but it was clear to me that it would. In any case, I took into account that my testimony would be passed on to the prime minister and other ministers for future use," Pines-Paz said.

"I don't object to publishing my testimony and even believe it is vital to make some of it public," Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Eli Yishai said yesterday. He said it was important to make his testimony public because "it reflects the government's conduct vis-a-vis the public during the war."

Former prime minister Ehud Barak said recently that it was very clear to him when he was testifying that the minutes of his testimony would be released, barring security considerations.

Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) and former prime minister and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu also said they knew their testimony would be released and did not object to it.

Pines-Paz said he saw no reason not to release the ministers' testimonies immediately, along with the minutes of the cabinet debates, barring censorship restrictions.

"If I could advise the committee I would tell them to act in the most transparent way possible, as long as no damage is caused to their work or state security," Pines-Paz said. "Censure what you have to and release the rest immediately, because in the absence of transparency the committee may lose the public's confidence."

Ben-Eliezer shares this view. He said that releasing the testimonies was important to the process of drawing conclusions for similar situations in the future.

Netanyahu emphasized the importance of transparency and the public's right to know. Publishing the testimonies would enable t he public to judge for itself its leaders' decision-making process, considerations and military views, he said.

Tzipi Livni said she was not promised her testimony would be kept confidential and would abide by any decision regarding it. Her aides said it has already been decided to release the testimonies and that current debates are about the timing.

Associates of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismissed allegations that he had been trying to prevent the release of his testimony. They said his main objection was to releasing the testimonies of military figures.

They asserted that the prime minister holds the supreme responsibility for security and foreign affairs and must protect those interests. Olmert did not object to releasing testimonies of public officials, as long as they were censured and posed no threat to state security and foreign affairs, they said.