Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The interim report of the Winograd Commission is available on the web and is worth reading. Here are a few salient points:

1. The key flaw in the running of the war was this: the attacks on Hizballah targets at the beginning of the war were likely to provoke rocket attacks on Israel, as indeed they did. The only way to deal with such attacks was through the use of ground troops. But the army was unprepared for a ground war and Olmert was unwilling to fight one. Hence Olmert and company had essentially created a mess they had no clue how to deal with.

2. On an administrative level, this happened because Halutz was an arrogant bastard who was convinced the war could be won from the air, ignored others' views and did not make them known to the government. Olmert and Peretz lacked the military experience to ask the right questions and lacked the administrative acumen to make sure that somebody else would. The rest of the ministers were useless as well and did as they were told.

3. The report is a serious piece of work that pays careful attention to methodological questions. It includes two learned discourses (obviously written by Ruth Gavison) - one on moral aspects of such investigations and the natural rights of those being investigated and another on the appropriateness of various types of recommendations the committee might choose to make. Gavison believes that in a democracy unelected bodies should interpret their mandates conservatively and allow the people, through their elected representatives, to make the necessary decisions. Thus, she is clearly reluctant for the commission to make specific recommendations regarding deposing senior officials. At the same time, she insists that the commission has the right to make such recommendations and hints that it might do so in the final report. In any event, the comments regarding Olmert, Peretz and Halutz are so damning that only a willful idiot needs for the recommendations to be spelled out.

4. The commission has been criticized for not dealing with the larger issues that played a role in Israel's slow decline over the past 15 years or so. This is not quite true. One has to know where to look. On page 21, tucked away in a subsection called "Change of Name of the Campaign to 'Second Lebanon War'", one finds this gem:

"The IDF was not ready for this war, inter alia, because among some of the political and military echelons the thought had taken hold that the age of wars had passed. That Israel and the IDF had sufficient deterrence to prevent an actual declaration of war against it. That when the need arose, it would be prepared to send a painful reminder to one who would appear as if undeterred. That Israel itself could determine if it would go to war -- and it would not go. That the military challenges would be mainly contending with ongoing conflicts of low intensity."

It is clear already that Olmert is finished. The only question is how quickly and in what manner this will play out. If he quits, Dalia Itzik, Knesset Chairwoman and Acting President (and Kadima MK), gets to select a candidate for Prime Minister, who will then have six weeks to put together a coalition. Tzippi Livni and Shimon Peres are the leading contenders. Which of the two is more scary?

The alternatives are that Bibi finds 61 MKs willing to support him (unlikely) or that the Knesset disbands itself and calls for elections or that Olmert disbands the Knesset and calls for elections just to spite Livni and Peres.


Anonymous zalman said...

on the mfa site, political and military "elites" is used instead of "echelons

12:29 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

If I had known they were translating it, I wouldn't have worked so hard to do it myself. In any case, the word in Hebrew is "dereg" which is better translated as "echelons" than "elites".

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you explain this report, which you can find on the internet from July 27, that says: "Prime Minister Olmert and the security cabinet, following several hours of discussion, decided to turn down the army's recommendation
for a larger-scale ground offensive."

12:21 PM  
Blogger Ha-historion said...

The only thing the Israeli government doesn't fail at consistently, is establishing commission of inquiry after commission of inquiry to state the obvious, obviously.

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

elections = day of vacation without shabbat or chag at the end. Sounds good.

7:15 PM  
Blogger RAM said...

Anonymous said...
How do you explain this report, which you can find on the internet from July 27, that says: "Prime Minister Olmert and the security cabinet, following several hours of discussion, decided to turn down the army's recommendation
for a larger-scale ground offensive."

This all could have been scripted ahead of time to show the army was rarin' to go but the soberly responsible civilians held it back in the interests of world peace or something.

8:19 PM  
Anonymous zalman said...

1. My quick read of the report's description of Livni's position (see p. 80) was that she was concerned that the operation might drag on and cause world opinion to go against us and not about the possibility that the army was unprepared for a ground war.

2. Would we be criticizing Sharon if he had caused the same results?

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Ben-C, I'm the one from 12:21 Wednesday. My question was perhaps unclear. It was: paragraph 2 of your summary stated that Halutz, leading the army, only wanted an air attack and did not want a ground offensive. This is not only your view, but that of others as well. But we see that the quoted internet report belies this. What is your take on this?

9:48 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

The report you cite was two weeks into the war by which time it was obvious that the war could not be won from the air.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Lynne said...

Thank you for your in-depth analysis of the report. If Olmert cared enough about his country and less about his career, he would resign.

6:22 AM  
Blogger bar_kochba132 said...

Getting rid of Olmert is not going to make any difference. All we will get is a game of musical chairs with the deceitful Tzippi Livni, Dichter or Mofaz as PM. Even if there are elections, and Netanyahu gets in, we all know they (the ruling oligarchs) will go after him like they did to him the first time, just like Sharon and Olmert, with criminal investigations, slander in the media, etc. All this in order to make sure he does what they want.
There has to be a real change in values, and the population is going to really have to demand true democracy and accountability, which have never existed here. The Americans are now planning a full-court press for dangerous concessions to the Palestinians which will endanger security, all so that Bush can divert attention from his Iraq fiasco. A weak, discredited Leftist gov't is ironically the best positioned to repulse such pressure. The most dangerous governments that make the most concessions to the Arabs are the "tough, Right-wing governments". They are the ones who destroyed Yamit and Gush Katif.
We had all better pray a lot in order to get throught this dangerous period.

1:57 PM  

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