At northern border, Netanyahu pledges to return residents ‘safely to their homes’

Report says PM doesn’t want commission of inquiry into October 7 failures at this time out of fear ex-Supreme Court president Hayut will head it

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to soldiers during a visit to the northern border on May 28, 2024. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to soldiers during a visit to the northern border on May 28, 2024. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told IDF soldiers in the north Tuesday that Israel was committed to returning tens of thousands of displaced residents of communities near the Lebanon border safely to their homes.

“We are committed — in both the civilian and military spheres — to returning the residents safely to their communities and their homes. This is one of the objectives of the war and we are not conceding it,” he told Golani Brigade soldiers during a visit to the IDF Northern District Intelligence Branch base.

Netanyahu received a briefing from outgoing Military Intelligence Directorate chief Aharon Haliva and from the head of the signal intelligence Unit 8200.

Shortly after the visit, a rocket alert sounded in the Western Galilee town of Shtula.

Israel has threatened to go to war against Hezbollah to restore security to the north, from which an estimated 60,000 civilians are currently displaced and staying elsewhere in the country.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in 10 civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 14 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 322 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon, but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 62 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier and dozens of civilians have been killed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut at a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on June 17, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Separately, the Walla news site reported Tuesday that Netanyahu has recently told associates that he objects to a state commission of inquiry being formed at this time to probe the multifaceted failures that led to Hamas’s October 7 invasion and onslaught.

Under pressure from war cabinet minister Benny Gantz to launch such an inquiry, Netanyahu expressed fear that Supreme Court Chief Justice Uzi Vogelman would appoint his predecessor Esther Hayut to head the commission, the outlet reported, citing unnamed sources close to the premier.

“If Vogelman appoints Hayut, it would simply be a disaster,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying, according to two sources. Hayut, who retired in October, was a bitter rival of the current Netanyahu government’s push last year to overhaul the judiciary, and led the nullification of a key law passed as part of the divisive legislation. Vogelman was similarly opposed to the plan, which proponents said sought to rein in an overpowered justice system but which critics charged would erode democratic checks and balances.

Netanyahu has repeatedly refused to take responsibility for the failures that enabled the Hamas-led attack, in which some 1,200 people in Israel were killed and 252 were taken hostage. He has remained adamant that any probe only be launched after the end of the almost eight-month ongoing war in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu’s office commented that the Walla report “is incorrect,” without specifying which part of it was being denied. The rest of the reaction confirmed Netanyahu’s opposition to holding an inquiry during the war, the likes of which he claimed would be unprecedented.

Israeli State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman walk at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Also on Tuesday, Channel 12 news reported that the Israel Defense Forces has reluctantly handed over some documents to the office of State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, which has since January been conducting its own probe into the pre-October 7 failures.

The report said that the military would try to get the High Court of Justice to further delay Englman’s probe, despite the court earlier this month having rejected a previous petition to force a hold on the probe.

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