Israeli Cabinet accepts disputed report on clash

October 29, 1990|By Robert Ruby | Robert Ruby,Jerusalem Bureau of The Sun

JERUSALEM -- Israel's Cabinet yesterday unanimously endorsed the findings of a special commission investigating the clash between police and Palestinians on the Temple Mount, even as Israeli commentators lambasted the the commission's report as inadequate.

Cabinet members authorized the minister of police, Ronnie Milo, to carry out a reorganization of police but remained divided about whether any officers should be disciplined. Mr. Milo must obtain the Cabinet's approval for any disciplinary measure, even against those commanders the commission singled out for criticism.

In its report issued last week, the commission appointed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir concluded that police had fired "indiscriminately" against Palestinian demonstrators and had failed to heed warnings by intelligence services that protests were likely to take place. At least 18 Palestinians were killed by police gunfire and more than 140 others were injured.

[The Associated Press reported yesterday that Israel's Government Press Office said that the sentence in the English version that said there was "indiscriminate use of live ammunition" should have read "unsupervised."]

The three-member commission blamed the violence that occurred Oct. 8 on the presence of thousands of Palestinians. They had gathered on the Temple Mount to protest a march by an extremist Jewish group campaigning to rebuild the ancient Jewish temple in the place of Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, among the most venerated shrines in the Islamic world.

Editorials in the Israeli press were almost unanimous in condemning the government's investigation as half-hearted. Mr. Shamir, the daily paper Ha--ot said, appointed an "anemic" commission whose product was "an incomplete and inadequate document."

"The report determines, and this must make Shamir happy, that the Arabs are to blame," the paper said. "But that is not enough to justify the number of casualties."

The daily Haaretz, which is often critical of Mr. Shamir's rightist coalition, editorialized that the police command was at fault for not anticipating events and should resign.

"In light of the complete failure which characterizes the behavior of the Israeli side, it is unimaginable that the government will leave the police commissioner and the commanders of the area and of the district in their jobs," the paper said.

In its reconstruction of events, the commission failed to support the government's own version of events. In defending police actions, the government said that the violence began when Palestinians began throwing stones onto Jewish worshipers in front of the Western Wall. Government spokesmen also insisted that the stoning was a provocation that had been planned in advance.

No evidence was found for those claims by the commission or by independent inquiries by Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups. Citing mostly police accounts, the commission concluded that stones were aimed at Jewish worshipers only after police had begun firing tear gas and rubber bullets. The commission also cited no evidence that the clash had been planned.

In a related development, Israel allowed Palestinians to return to jobs within Israel yesterday after a four-day ban on Palestinians leaving the occupied territories. Israel enforced the ban after three Israelis and two Palestinians were killed last week in a series of attacks in Israel.

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