Well, the interim report on the conduct of the Lebanon war is due to be released by the Winograd Committee tomorrow. But parts of it were leaked by Channel 10 last night. No surprises. The war was mismanaged, in large part in ways that have been apparent; Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Peretz (and former chief of staff Halutz, who has already resigned) bear primary responsibility.
According to the leak, the report says that:
— The gov’t had no coherent plans when it went to war.
— Olmert "acted with hastiness and arrogance," failing to consult with the National Security Council or other bodies — not even his mini-Security Cabinet. A "failure" as a leader, he simply relied upon Halutz.
— However Halutz did not take the missile attacks from the north seriously and did not develop a coherent plan to deal with them. He presented one plan after another that failed to address the Hezbollah threat.
— Olmert was reluctant to launch a ground war for fear of escalating casualties but developed no clear alternative plan.
— Peretz should not have taken the post of Defense because of his lack of knowledge of security affairs, and made no effort to make up for his lack after taking the position.
The stuff of nightmares, really.
The interim report will be released by the Winograd Committee by 5 PM tomorrow, with the first copy to go to Olmert. The full report is due out this summer.
While the Committee reports on what happened, it does not have the authority to apply sanctions or make recommendations. It was set up that way from the beginning, when it was established by Olmert, as Amir Oren of Ha’aretz has pointed out.
It is not empowered to say, "Sack these fools forthwith!" Although, of course, these fools should be sacked forthwith and the government should come down.
Already, two things are happening. Olmert’s associates are saying that he has no intention of resigning. (Understand: once he resigns, his political career is over; he would prefer to hold on as long as he can.) Peres — who himself should have been long retired — is providing assurance (if assurance is at all the right word) that this government has hardly seen its last days.
But Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik is planning to convene a special session of the Knesset later this week to discuss the situation. And from both the left and the right are coming calls for Olmert’s resignation. Danny Yatom (Labor-part of the coalition) said the entire government must resign. Ofir Pines-Paz (also Labor) said, "Olmert…should allow the country to stop bleeding and allow a new leadership to take over and help the country recover." Uri Ariel (NU/NRP) has submitted a proposal for dissolution of the Knesset and calling of elections.
Opposition leader Netanyahu says he will not have a full comment until after the report is released tomorrow.
An anti-government rally is being called for Thursday in Tel Aviv by the Civil Coalition headed by Gen. (ret.) Uzi Dayan.
Worst case scenario: If Olmert resigns but the coalition stays intact with Tzipi Livni at its helm. The alternatives are a coalition to replace the present one cobbled together by opposition leader Netanyahu without elections, or a complete collapse of the government with new elections called for. The moment of truth approaches: Of key significance is how members of the Kadima party will act.
While we cannot know for certain until it happens, Peretz is widely expected to resign; he knows he’s in over his head.
He has been expressing a desire to assume the position of Minister of Finance. It is currently open because Avraham Hirschson took a leave of absence while under investigation for financial malfeasance; Olmert is serving in the post for a period of limited duration. But word is that the job is not going to go to Peretz.
Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the Cabinet today that Hezbollah is attempting to move into open areas south of the Litani River, closer to our northern border. Additionally, while the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL are operating, the smuggling of weapons continues, as there is no effective mechanism in place for stopping this. He expressed concerns about Hezbollah’s ability to gain control of the Lebanese gov’t in the near future, and whether the gov’t currently in power would renew the mandate of UNIFIL.
As to Gaza, Ashkenazi reports that since the "ceasefire" five months ago, there have been 250 incidents of "high-trajectory" fire, both Kassams and mortar shells. "In addition, Palestinians plant explosive devices, attempt to infiltrate Israel and fire at our forces. With 250 incidents in five months, I would not refer to this situation as a ceasefire.
"If this situation continues, there will be no choice but to operate," he concluded.
As to a major IDF action in Gaza, there is much being said by analysts. One thought is that we are still strengthening our forces and not yet ready. We erred in Lebanon last summer, going to war when we weren’t ready; there is an eagerness now to avoid the same trap. When we would be ready is a question I cannot answer, for while we are strengthening, so are they, with continued smuggling and training of forces. The reluctance seems primarily on the part of the political echelon, while there is a military eagerness to act — certainly this is what I got from the briefing by Gen. Galant of the Southern Command, which I cited recently, and it seems to be the sense of Ashkenazi’s message today as well.
There is additionally the speculation that Hamas is attempting to lure us into entering Gaza for its own two-pronged purpose. This is how Khaled Abu Toameh of the Post sees it. First, he explains, Hamas expects that an IDF incursion into Gaza would weaken Abbas’s attempts to gain control. And second, there is expectation within Hamas that this would unify its splintered party, as nothing rallies people to join forces like battle with a common enemy. Abu Toameh quotes the editor of Al-Hayat, the PA daily: "Our conditions haven’t changed since the signing of the Mecca deal and some are trying to solve our internal problems by rushing toward creating a major confrontation with the occupation."
Abbas and Mashaal met in Cairo on Friday, at which time Abbas failed to convinced Mashaal to sustain a truce (so-called). Mashaal says there will be no cease-fire unless Israel agrees to extend it to Judea and Samaria. Ceasing IDF action there would be disastrous for Intelligence and preventative maneuvers.
Said one Fatah member of the PA: "Mashaal is trying to undermine the new government and the president. He wants many things in return for agreeing to a cease-fire."
According to Arutz Sheva, Abbas and Mashaal forged an agreement in Cairo for Hamas to join the PLO, which will now be "reorganized."
Meanwhile, yesterday the IDF killed three Palestinian Arabs who were found planting an explosive device next to the Kissufim crossing.
The issue of evacuating the residents of the Shalom House in Hebron is still on the table and was raised at today’s Cabinet meeting. Olmert and Peretz remain at loggerheads on this, with Peretz insisting he has the authority to evict them. In fact, I read a report today indicating that he was about to issue an eviction notice. But Arutz Sheva had a different take: Pere
tz said he was within his rights to evict the residents because they had failed to file an appeal mandated by Attorney General Mazuz. But a spokesman for the Hebron community says the appeal was properly filed with the Civil Administration, which had neglected to inform Peretz, who was all too eager to act.
Every indication remains that the house was properly and legally purchased by Jews; it sits in the area of Hebron that is under Israeli jurisdiction, not in Arab Hebron.
Many thousands of Israeli Arabs demonstrated in Nazareth on behalf of former MK Azmi Bishara yesterday. According to Balad, Bishara’s party, the Israeli action is not against Bishara, but against all Israeli Arabs. We are facing a problem of very serious dimensions here.
This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/4/29/april-29-2007-anticipating-winograd.html