Last Update: 01/09/2003 12:06
Justice Min. Lapid: I'll accept Or report as final ruling
By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondent
Justice Minister Yosef (Tommy) Lapid said Monday
morning that he would accept the findings of the
Or Commission on the violent clashes of October
2000 as a final ruling.
The state commission of inquiry
set up to investigate the
clashes - in which 13 Arabs
were killed inside Israel,
apparently by police - will
release its findings to the
government on Monday
Lapid, who is also Shinui chairman, told Israel Radio that the report
should not be seen as the beginning of a fresh
debate. He dismissed criticism of the
commission of inquiry, saying its establishment
was crucial because the deaths of Arab citizens
is a serious matter that must be investigated.
Shinui MK Eliezer Sandberg was one of those who
criticized the commission, calling it one of
the most superfluous committees in Israel, Army
Radio reported. Sandberg said it would cause
police to hesitate when they should act by
making them afraid the government could conduct
an investigation into their behavior.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Uzi
Landau (Likud) told Israel Radio that the Or
Commission shouldn`t have been formed in the
first place becuase it was established due to
the electoral considerations of former prime
minister Ehud Barak. The Barak government
established the panel in November 2000.
The commission, headed by Supreme Court Justice
Theodor Or, is expected to criticize figures
who were part of Israel's political leadership
at the time, including Barak.
Senior police officers, past and present, are
also likely to be criticized in the report, as
are public figures from Israel's Arab sector.
The commission's three members - Or, Judge
Hashim Khatib and Professor Shimon Shamir -
have all endorsed and signed the report's
The violence erupted on October 1, 2000 -
together with the outbreak of the intifada in
the territories - in dozens of localities in
When it ended, 13 Arabs were dead: 12 citizens
of Israel and a Palestinian from Dir al-Balah.
In addition, a Jewish Israeli man was killed by
a thrown rock, and hundreds of citizens and
policemen were injured.
The panel members have based their findings on
testimony furnished by dozens of witnesses, and
its report is hundreds of pages long.
The report is to be submitted to the government
Monday afternoon. Copies will also be given to
the attorneys of the 14 public figures who were
warned that the commission's findings could
implicate them and to the families of those
killed in the clashes. It will be released to
the media and public after all those people
receive the report.
The commission's work and findings have stirred
considerable international interest, and
foreign journalists were briefed Sunday by the
About half an hour after the report is released
to the public, leaders of the Arab sector will
hold a press conference in Jerusalem.
Also participating in the press conference will
be members of the bereaved families and
attorneys from Adalah, the Legal Center for
Arab Minority Rights in Israel, who represented
the families during the commission hearings,
and also the three Arab public figures who were
warned that the report's findings could be
damaging to them.
Police officers and spokesmen will also hold a
press conference Monday afternoon.
The main question probed by the Or panel was how
it came to pass that policemen fatally shot 13
people inside Israel and injured hundreds of
others in what was essentially a mass violent
uprising, which was totally unexpected and for
which Israel's security services were
But the panel also looked at the issue from
another angle, investigating why citizens of
the state staged the most violent
demonstrations ever witnessed within Israel,
attacking policemen and Jewish citizens and
effacing symbols of Israeli authority in Arab
In an interim summary of its work, released in
February 2002, the commission warned 14 public
figures - most of whom are no longer in public
service - that its findings could possibly
implicate them. From the political leadership,
both Barak and then public security minister
Shlomo Ben-Ami were warned.
Three Arab leaders were also warned, mostly on
account of the role they may have played in
agitating Arab crowds. These were MK Abdulmalik
Dehamshe (United Arab List), MK Azmi Bishara
(Balad) and the leader of the northern branch
of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raad Salah.
The majority of the people who received warning
letters, however, were Israeli policeman,
including then police commissioner Yehuda Wilk
and then commander of the police's northern
district, Major General Alik Ron.
Israel's police force is prepared for a harsh
report whose criticism could focus on the
measures they used to control unruly crowds.
One specific recommendation that the commission
is expected to make is the imposition of severe
restrictions, if not an outright ban, on the
use of rubber-coated bullets to disperse