December 30, 1968

Regulated by a law passed on December 30, 1968, Israeli state commissions of inquiry are panels appointed to investigate matters of public concern and state interest. These independent bodies are among Israeli democracy’s most trusted institutions. 


An engine of Israeli democracy, state commissions of inquiry are fact-finding probes into matters of special importance to Israeli national interest. The law regulating this distinctive Israeli institution was passed in 1968, and since then, there have been twenty state commissions of inquiry. Although this law empowers the government to decide whether to appoint a commission to investigate a “matter of vital importance to the public at a given time that requires clarification,” public pressure has usually forced reluctant governments to act. Once the government draws up a letter of appointment outlining the commission’s mandate, it falls to the judicial branch, in the person of the president of the Supreme Court, to empanel the commission. As required by the 1968 law, the commission must be a three or more member panel chaired by a judge, sitting or retired. Once formed, the commission is not answerable to any government agency or authority and, therefore, not subject to outside pressure. Since the commission functions outside of Israel’s three branches of government, it enjoys an independence that has made it one of the state’s most trusted institutions and, along with the state comptroller, its most reliable official watchdog. After months or years of investigation, the commission produces its reports, interim and final, establishing the facts of the matter at issue and proposing corrective action. Governments are under no obligation to implement these recommendations, but, as with the decision to appoint a commission in the first place, public pressure often forces its hand. 

Summaries of Israel’s Best-Known Commissions of Inquiry

Agranat Commission Report –1973-1975

Released in two parts, the Agranat Commission investigates the reasons for Israel’s shortcomings in the October 1973 War. One major cause identified is Israel’s intelligence community’s commitment to a ‘concept’ about the improbability of war– it had information about Arab intentions that is not assessed correctly, and deployment of responding forces is needlessly delayed. The Commission refrains from assigning ministerial responsibility. The first part of the report is released in early 1974, resulting in the resignation of Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. Some Israeli generals are admonished and forced to retire.

Kahan Commission Report on the Massacre at Sabra and Shatila –1982-1983

After Israel’s invasion of southern Lebanon in June 1982, the Kahan Commission is established to answer widespread public dissatisfaction about the conduct of the war. It concludes that Israel had no direct responsibility for the massacre of close to 1,000 Palestinians living in refugee camps. Prime Minister Begin is not sanctioned, but Defense Minister Sharon is blamed for ignoring the signs that revenge killings are likely to take place. Sharon does not resign from office. Others, such as the Foreign Minister, the Chief of Staff, and the head of IDF Intelligence, are also remonstrated

Shamgar Commission Report on the Assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin –1995-1996

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995.  Four days later the Israeli Government appointed a special Commission of Inquiry to investigate events surrounding the assassination. President of the Supreme Court Meir Shamgar chaired the Commission that also included two other members, General (Res.) Zvi Zamir and Professor Ariel Rosen-Zvi.  The Commission started its work on November 19, 1995, finally issuing its  conclusions  and recommendations on March 28, 1996. 

Or Commission –2000-2003

Responding to two weeks of violence in the Arab-Israeli sector in October 2000, in which 12 Arab citizens of Israel are killed by police, the government Commission’s report blames several political and community leaders for mismanagement. Further, the report catalyzes the establishment of a permanent Knesset Ministerial Committee for Arab affairs. The findings cause the release of several police officers and the Security Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami. 

A Comprehensive List of Israeli State Commissions of Inquiry 

Since the passage of the Commission of Inquiry Law on December 30, 1968, twenty state commissions of Inquiry have been appointed to investigate “matter[s] of vital importance to the public,” in the words of the law.  

        Commission Name and Date     Matter Under Investigation

Zussman Commission (1969)Arson at the al-Aqsa Mosque
Etzioni Commission (1971)Corruption and game fixing in Israeli soccer 
Witkon Commission (1971-1972)Malfeasance by the national oil company, Netivei Neft 
Agranat Commission (1973-1975)Unpreparedness for the Yom Kippur War
Kenet Commission (1979-1981)Conditions in Israeli prisons 
Bechor Commission (1981-1985)Assassination of Chaim Arlosoroff, the head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency murdered in 1933 
Kahan Commission (1982-1983)Responsibility for the Sabra and Shatila Massacre 
Beisky Commission (1985-1986)The banking crisis that led to the collapse of the Israeli stock market in 1983
Landau Commission (1987)The interrogation techniques of the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service)
Netanyahu Commission (1988-1990)Irregularities in Israel’s health care system
First Shamgar Commission (1994)Cave of the Patriarchs massacre
Cohen-Kedmi Commission (1995-2001)The disappearance of Yemeni Jewish infants in the state’s first six years
Second Shamgar Commission (1995-1996)The assassination of Prime MInister Yitzhak Rabin
Or Commission (2000-2003)The shooting of 13 Arab demonstrators by the Israeli police in October 2000
Zeiler Commission (2001-2003)Building safety
Dorner Commission (2008)Government stipends to Holocaust survivors
Bein Commission (2008-2010)Water management by the state
Matza Commission (2009-2010)Government care of evacuees from the Gaza Strip 
Naor/Berliner Commission (2021-2024)Stampede at Mount Meron in 2021
Grunis Commission (2022-present)Possible conflicts of interest in the purchase of submarines from a German company