High Court orders state comptroller to suspend October 7 probe into IDF, Shin Bet

Justice Gila Canfy-Steinitz says ruling based on classified opinions written by security agencies

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, right, and Ma’alot-Tarshiha Mayor Arkady Pomeranets touring a bomb shelter in the city, October 17, 2023. (Courtesy State Comptroller’s Office)
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, right, and Ma’alot-Tarshiha Mayor Arkady Pomeranets touring a bomb shelter in the city, October 17, 2023. (Courtesy State Comptroller’s Office)

The High Court of Justice issued an interim order on Sunday instructing State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman to suspend any aspects of his investigation into the failings relating to the October 7 Hamas attacks that deal with the IDF and the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency.

Justice Gila Canfy-Steinitz wrote that after having reviewed classified position papers submitted by security agencies, she decided to order the comptroller to halt his wide-ranging investigation until the court holds a hearing on petitions against his examination of the October 7 calamity in July.

Matanyahu’s investigation has been controversial ever since he announced it in December 2023. Good-governance watchdog groups petitioned the court against the comptroller’s initiative, arguing that it was not in his purview and would harm the IDF’s operational capabilities, and expressing concern that the investigation would ignore political responsibility for the devastating invasion and massacres.

The IDF and the State Attorney’s Office also opposed the investigation.

Englman has argued, however, that an extended delay would damage the chances of conducting a thorough and effective review of the October 7 calamity.

Back in December, the comptroller announced that he would be conducting a broad investigation into the October 7 invasion and massacre perpetrated by Hamas, stating that his office would look into all aspects of the “multi-system failures,” including examining those with “personal responsibility” for the “failures on all levels – policy, military and civilian.”

Newly appointed Supreme Court justice Gila Canfy-Steinitz speaks during a swearing in ceremony for newly appointed judges at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, March 6, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi asked him to delay the investigation into the army, stating in a letter in January that it would “divert the attention of the commanders from the fighting, will damage operational investigation ability, and will not allow drawing the necessary lessons to achieve the goals of the war.”

The State Attorney’s Office adopted the position of the petitioners opposing the comptroller’s efforts, stating that his investigation would cause “substantive harm to the operational capability of security services and harm the fighting.”

After ruling in May that that she would not halt the comptroller’s investigation, Canfy-Steinitz reversed her position on Sunday.

“In view of the complex security reality, the planned scope of the investigation —  which will deal, among other things, with the combat support system and core operational issue — and the preparation required to respond to [the investigation] at the current time, and while giving significant weight to the classified position papers of the security agencies submitted to me, I order the suspension of the investigation procedures in everything that relates to the IDF and Shin Bet,” Canfy-Steinitz ruled.

Movement for Quality of Government in Israel Chairman Attorney Eliad Shraga at a High Court hearing on the issue of ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the IDF, February 26, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

The head of the Movement for Quality Government, Eliad Shraga, said in response that the court had accepted his organization’s position “in full” and determined that “the comptroller should not be allowed to disrupt the activities of the army and the Shin Bet at this fateful time.”

After the ruling, Shraga’s organization swiftly filed a new petition demanding the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the October 7 disaster.

Establishing a state commission of inquiry “is our ethical and moral imperative towards the heroes of Israel who have laid down their lives, the dozens of destroyed towns, and the thousands of evacuees,” said Shraga.

The petition argues that the Hamas assault exposed substantive failings on all levels from the political to the military, and was the biggest security and policy disaster of the country’s history.

State commissions of inquiry can either be established by a government resolution or the Knesset’s State Control Committee, and are independent panels whose members are selected by the Supreme Court president from among serving or retired Supreme Court or district court judges.

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