A Likud member of Knesset who publicly called for the resignation of the commission of inquiry into the Beirut camps massacres after the commission sent warning notices to Premier Menachem Begin and eight other senior officers, has been sharply upbraided by Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir.
Zamir called MK Yitzhak Zeyger’s statement a “primo facie act that requires a police criminal investigation.” But the MK’s parliamentary immunity prevents this.
Zeyger, a member of the Liberal Party wing of Likud, argued in his statement that the Cabinet and its ministers were not subject to the jurisdiction of the commission which was part of the jud- icial branch of the government and could not therefore pass judgement on the executive branch. In addition to Begin, warnings were sent to Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
LAWYERS REBUT ZEYGER’S ASSERTIONS
But Zamir and other top academic lawyers flatly rebutted Zeyger’s assertions. Some of them maintained that Zeyger plainly fails to understand the basic nature of a judicial commission of inquiry. A commission, these jurists pointed out, is not part of the judiciary, but a sui generis institution, set up by the government itself under statute to conduct on objective inquiry into an issue which the government determines to be worthy of such inquiry because of its public interest and importance.
Zeyger’s statement, according to Zamir, was on apparent offence against the sub judice law which forbids the publication of anything calculated to influence a commission of inquiry in its work.
Several of the men formally warned by the commission last week that they “may be harmed” by its findings have been seeking legal advice in preparation for rebuttal efforts.
BEGIN TO FOREGO STATUTORY RIGHT
Begin, however, has let it be known that he will probably not avail himself of the statutory right now offered to all nine men to reappear before the commission, to review all relevant material pertaining to themselves, to cross-examine witnesses and to adduce evidence and witnesses of their own to strengthen their own cases.
Begin, according to sources close to him will send a letter to the commission explaining once again why his government approved the entry of the Lebanese Christian Phalangists into the Sabra and Shatil a camps despite the danger of “acts of revenge and bloodshed” in the wake of the assassination two days before of their leader, President-elect Bashir Gemayel.
The sources close to Begin point out that the commission plainly accepted his version of the facts pertaining to himself: that he knew nothing of the massacre while it was in progress, since none of the reports that did come in were relayed to him.
Begin must answer for what may be adjudged a lapse or failure of judgement. He is not in the position of having to buttress his own testimony in the face of contradictory testimony from another witness.
Beyond the Premier’s decision on how to handle the commission’s formal letter of warning, the sources close to him stress that he will demand early elections if the commission in its findings attribute any negligence or wrongdoing whatever to him. These sources say Begin is confident and would be returned with an increased majority.
SEE VALIDITY IN BEGIN’S APPROACH
Neutral observers say there is a certain validity in this approach, in terms of pure principles of democracy. They doubt, though, whether the majority of the electorate would in fact restore Begin to power if he were faulted by this prestigious inquiry commission. Some observers contend that a political response to findings of a judicial nature is essentially misplaced.
Begin’s political defense line has been echoed already by both Sharon and Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai. Both these men insist that the commission’s finding; would not lead to the downfall of the government–and certainly not the creation of an alternative, Labor-led government, without elections. Modai was not among the nine who received the warnings. (See November 26 Bulletin for the nine officials, involved and the warning each received.)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.