August 23, 2006

Olmert may set up state commission on Lebanon: TV

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
may order a state inquiry into the Lebanon war, Channel 1
Television reported on Wednesday, a move that could trigger a
political and military shake-up.

The station said Olmert was "considering favorably" setting
up a state inquiry commission to review the handling of the
offensive against Hizbollah. Such a body, usually chaired by a
supreme court judge, has wide powers and holds public hearings.

A government official said Olmert had discussed with the
attorney general the types of commissions that could examine
the war and would probably make a decision by Thursday evening.

"He got the various recommendations from the attorney
general today and is certainly looking at all the different
implications," the official told Reuters.

"He is not opposed to it," the official said, when asked
about the state inquiry.

Other officials have previously indicated Olmert did not
want the country to get bogged down in a major inquiry, but
criticism has mounted over the conduct of the 34-day war in the
wake of a truce that took effect last week.

Army reservists have said the military was ill-prepared for
the conflict and indecisive in the campaign. Some critics have
called for Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to quit
after the military failed to crush Hizbollah.

A state inquiry commission has subpoena and investigative
powers and usually sits for months. Its recommendations are
non-binding but are made public, making their adoption by the
government nearly certain.

Other commissions have lesser powers.

State inquiry commissions into Israel's past wars have
forced the resignation of top officials and military leaders.

In the wake of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the Kahan
commission's recommendations led to the resignation of then
defense minister Ariel Sharon over the massacre of Palestinians
in two refugee camps by Israel's Christian militia allies

That commission found Sharon indirectly responsible for the
killings, findings he rejected.

Israel launched its offensive last month against Hizbollah
after the guerrilla group abducted two soldiers and killed
eight others in a cross-border raid on July 12. The war killed
nearly 1,200 people in Lebanon and 157 Israelis.