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Israel Appoints Commission of Inquiry Into Lebanon War


Israel has decided to conduct an official investigation into the war in Lebanon, where the army battled Islamic Hezbollah guerrillas for 34 days. The decision follows a stormy debate over who should take responsibility for a campaign that was widely seen as a failure.

The Israeli Cabinet appointed a commission of inquiry, in the wake of fierce public criticism of the way the government and army handled the war in Lebanon. From reservists to politicians to ordinary people, Israelis are asking why the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, failed to defeat Hezbollah.

"We lost, and we lost against a group of some four-thousand Hezbollah fighters. The IDF, which is a mighty and efficient, and very good army - we lost," said Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens.

Arens, from the opposition Likud party, believes top officials in the government should resign.

"The primary problem was the total mismanagement of this war, and that came from the political level, the prime minister first and foremost, [and] the minister of defense," he added.

However, the commission falls short of demands for an independent inquiry that would have the power to dismiss officials.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has resisted calls for an independent investigation, saying it would be too time-consuming and distract the army from the urgent task of defending the country. He said the inquiry appointed by the Cabinet would have authority comparable to a state commission.

Mr. Olmert said he hopes the commission "will finish its work quickly, and will help Israel to prepare better for the challenges ahead."

Critics say the prime minister avoided an independent commission, because he was afraid the findings would topple the government.

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