Monday, April 30, 2007

Winograd Committee leaks

The first leaks of the Winograd Commission Report, looking into the handling of the Second Lebanon War of 2006, were reported in the Israeli press in the past two days. They are said to be devastating to PM Olmert and his leading appointees, Defense Minister Peretz and former Chief of Staff Halutz.
Olmert is said to have ordered the IDF into war with Hizbollah without due consideration of alternatives. Peretz and Olmert had no significant discussions of strategy and since neither are military men nor had any experience with security matters, both were totally dependent on the Chief of Staff's advice. Halutz is criticized for having given the political leadership only one option, and to have excluded the advice of lower ranks of the IDF command. He is particularly responsible for having decided on mainly an aerial attack and for excluding all other approaches from consideration until very late in the war.
None of this is a surprise, and is in fact what the chattering classes have been saying all along. The analysis is based on the simple and obvious fact that both Olmert and Peretz were unqualified to be carrying out a military campaign, and were therefore totally dependent on Halutz's advice. But, these are only leaked details, the actual Report will be officially released tomorrow, Monday afternoon, with all the gruesome details upon which the Committee's conclusions are based. But, this is only the interim Report covering the first five days of the war.
Even with only these initial details, the Report is said to be so bad for Olmert and Peretz, that there are many calls now from all sides of the political divide for them to resign. Yossi Beilin, leader of the only Party, the extreme left Yahad (formerly Meretz) Party that opposed the war itself throughout in the Knesset, called for Olmert and Peretz to resign, but prefers to have them replaced by an alternate Kadima leadership, rather than face new elections (in which Yahad might lose votes). The same is true of other Kadima members, who tend to be less vocal in their criticism of Olmert and Peretz, and some Labor leaders who are calling on Peretz to be replaced. The rightwing opposition, mainly Likud, that supported the war itself but opposed the strategy of the war as it was carried out, are calling for the Government itself to resign and for new elections to take place. Netanyahu met with Beilin in an unusual combination of opposites, since both are in the opposition. Netanyahu as leader of the opposition has so far kept quiet, preferring to bide his time.
Certainly, if the Report is as damning as expected, public opinion will strongly support the resignation of Olmert and Peretz and the initiation of new elections. How long Olmert can stave off this eventuality is unclear, but his coalition still has a majority in the Knesset, so it may be necessary for some members of his coalition to break with the Government before this can be achieved. It is possible that part of the Labor Party will split from supporting Peretz and Kadima and will bolt the coalition. But, it is sure that Olmert will try to hang on for as long as he can, if only to prevent the Report and other criminal charges against him (there are nine) from being implemented. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has been grooming herself as a probable replacement for Olmert in the Kadima Party, since she is apparently the only member of the top Govt. leadership who has escaped criticism by the Winograd Committee.
The next few weeks will be interesting and critical for the future of the State of Israel. At least while this is going on we have a competent new Chief of Staff, Gaby Ashkenazi, who is presiding over the revamping of the IDF following the previous Reports on its state of readiness and military competence. It is expected that Olmert will manage to hang on until the final Winograd Report of the war is released in August.


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