May 3, 2007
What now after Winograd?
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Yediot Achronot analyst Nahum Barnea said it was understood that Israel had not sought out the confrontation, but that the Winograd Commission still had to examine the grave mistakes made in managing the war.
"There was a failed war here in the summer," Barnea wrote. "It was the most naked of Israel's wars: We knew in real time nearly everything that was said in the government, the Security Cabinet and the corridors of the IDF General Staff; we knew about the fiascos and the blunders, about the army's ineffectuality on the front line and about the disintegration on the home front.
"We know what expectations Olmert, Peretz and Halutz created in the public, and we know what the results were on the ground," he continued. "It is not the thirst for answers that led to the committee being formed, it was the hunger for punishment."
Israelis now are waiting to see how that quest for punishment will translate on the ground. It appears Olmert's rivals in his Kadima Party are in no rush to topple him, as they continue to argue over possible successors.
Kadima's partners in the coalition government also are not overly anxious to change the status quo if it could mean losing seats in the process.
Scheduled anti-government rallies might provide a clue as to how intent the public is not just to vent its anger but to actively seek a change.
The question of who would fill a leadership void remains open. Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu leads the polls, but neither he nor other potential candidates seem to command much enthusiasm.
At the heart of public bitterness toward the current leadership is anger over the trauma they experienced last summer -- the trauma of seeing that the government and army might not be capable of protecting them.
"The fact is that people were killed; homes were destroyed; the home front was so totally unequipped and people's sons and husbands were fighting without food and water," said Galia Golan, academic director of the International Program in Conflict Resolution at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
"The trauma of not being protected has to be expressed in some way," she said. "Security is vital to everyone here. Having lost that is traumatic."
Basic Facts on the Israeli Inquiry
The following is a guide to the Winograd Commission report:
Why was the commission created?
It was formed after public criticism of the management of the Second Lebanon War. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz appointed what is referred to as a government examination committee. It was charged with examining the preparedness and behavior of the political and military leadership relating to the war against Hezbollah last summer, as well as the years that led to the conflict since the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.
What are the major findings?
The findings released April 30 represent an interim report, focusing only on the lead-up to the war and the first six days. The report criticizes Olmert, Peretz and the wartime chief of staff, Dan Halutz. Specifically:
- Olmert is singled out for what is described as "severe failure" in his judgment and lack of caution from the start of the war. "The prime minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one," the report said. "He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the Israeli Defense Forces, despite not having experience in external political and military affairs."
- Peretz is reprimanded for not having "knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters," and for his failure to seek better counsel.
- Halutz is criticized for not having the army properly prepared and for failing to inform the politicians about internal army considerations. The panel expressed concerns regarding the military's ability to carry out the stated goals of the war.
What are the possible ramifications?
The commission's final report, planned for late July, may present recommendations to personally hold those investigated responsible for the war's failures. Nevertheless, unlike a commission of inquiry, the committee is an advisory body and its recommendations are not legally binding.
Still, public pressure or an internal coup in the ruling Kadima Party in response to the report's scathing comments could force Olmert out of power. For now that appears unlikely, and Olmert has said he will not resign. Peretz has said he would likely leave his post as defense minister after his Labor Party holds its primaries at the end of May.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who has returned to politics and plans to run against Peretz for the party leadership, reportedly is Olmert's first choice to replace Peretz as defense minister.
A new round of appointments in the army's general staff also is likely in the wake of the report.
-- DK; JTA Washington Bureau Chief Ron Kampeas contributed to this story
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