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April 30, 2007: Shaky Times

April 30, 2007

Shameful. There is no other word for it: The conclusions of interim report on the conduct of the War in Lebanon, as presented by Judge Eliyahu Winograd, who chaired the committee charged with the investigation.

I knew it, and yet facing it now, I find it still takes my breath away, as it must the breath of most persons in this nation.

Olmert "formulated his stance without a second thought, without being presented with a detailed military plan, without considering the complex conditions of fighting in Lebanon. There was no organized consultation with others, mainly outside of army, despite his lack of diplomatic and military experience.

"The prime minister is responsible for failing to clearly set out the aims of the war, and for there not being a clear definition of aims of war and ways to achieve them…All of these factors come together to form a serious failure of judgment, responsibility, and caution.

"The decision to go forward with a harsh, immediate military response was not taken on the basis of a well-planned strategy….

"The IDF’s response would result in massive fire on the home front, which the IDF didn’t have an answer to. There was no information on the state of the army, despite the need for such information.

"The IDF didn’t show creativity in making options available. It didn’t demand that reserves be called up, which would have allowed them to be trained and equipped ahead of a needed ground operation.

"The main responsibility for these severe failures are placed on the prime minister, the defense minister, and the former chief of staff. Had they acted differently, the results would have been different. .."

Peretz, says Winograd, had no experience in military procedures, yet made decisions unilaterally without consulting others or compensating for his lack of knowledge.

Chief of Staff Halutz’s "culpability is made more severe in light of the fact that he knew that the prime minister and the defense minister had no experience." He led them to believe that the army was ready when it wasn’t…"he did not act with responsibility, good judgment, and professionalism."

Winograd said "many others" share culpability for this state of affairs. He pointed to the previous governments that had allowed Hezbollah to strengthen at our border…"The ability of Hezbollah to sit on the border, and dictate the level of escalation, was made possible by the 2000 retreat of the IDF from southern Lebanon…"

Winograd also faulted the rest of the government (i.e., the ministers) who exhibited "unjustified faith in the decision makers."

"For 25 years, there [hadn’t] been a war. The IDF was not ready for war, for a number of reasons, among them being that the political and military leaders decided that the age of wars [had] ended, and that the IDF had enough deterrence power…

"We believe that we must look beyond the decision making failures, at these issues which form central questions, raised by the Lebanon War. These are the questions standing at the heart of our existence as a Jewish and democratic state."

Please G-d, let this serve as a signal lesson, so that next time will be different. Let us move to a healing of the nation.

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What will happen now? I cannot yet say. I have no crystal ball, only my deepest hopes.

Are Olmert and Peretz, along with the coalition, so shameless, so without sense of responsibility, that they will maneuver and fight to stay in power in spite of this report? Without a doubt.

Kadima ministers have met in special session and are formulating responses. Olmert went into the meeting declaring, "The last thing the nation needs is early elections." In fact, he actually said, "It would be wrong" for him to resign, as if he’s being noble to refrain from doing so. Peres agreed, saying "Elections would serve no purpose." From other members of the coalition we’re also starting to see the spin: This is a chance to correct things, let’s not make this political. Let’s focus on the future, not the past. Let’s not give Nasrallah a victory by bringing down the government. It is a positive thing if changes are made within the system that was criticized. Olmert plans to appoint a special committee from within the cabinet tomorrow to review the report.

But this doesn’t mean the clamor will not be such that ultimately the government will have to fall. Reports are that Olmert’s opponents are waiting for the final Winograd report which will be released this summer and promises to be even more damning. YNet cited one unnamed "Kadima official" as saying: the report "did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert a favor. Now he can go home of his own accord, or he’ll be sent home in July. The report is extremely clear. It allows Olmert to pack up his things himself. Only someone illiterate wouldn’t understand the Winograd report."

And Dan Halutz, who resigned as Chief of Staff said: "I didn’t shrug off my responsibility for the military’s performance on others, and I condemn anybody else’s effort to evade responsibility."

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In recent days, as other members of Olmert’s Kadima party rushed to defend him, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has been silent. This has not escaped notice, and her claims of just being distracted by other matters or whatever are not playing well. I am hearing that — whatever happens to him — Olmert is sufficiently irritated that he would move to block Livni from taking his place.

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According to Attorney Yossi Fuchs — a very fine lawyer and expert on constitutional law — this is the scenario as it may unfold:

Fuchs says that Olmert must resign because the precedent has been set by the Kahn Commission that investigated Sabra and Shatila in 1982. The Commission declared that one who is "found to bear ministerial responsibility for a grave security or political fiasco, must resign or be fired" — and Ariel Sharon, who was found responsible for not preventing the Sabra and Shatila massacre, resigned immediately.

Says Fuchs, the Kahn Commission had status as a governmental commission of inquiry, a status that the Winograd Committee (a review committee) was not endowed with on its establishment. However, in response to a suit that was brought, the Government of Israel stated that the Committee would have the same authorities as those of a governmental commission of inquiry. (This, I must add, is an issue I’ve seen much debated of late.)

Therefore, if Olmert does not resign within a reasonable length of time, Fuchs and others will file a suit in the High Court to force him to do so. Will this play? It depends on the High Court. I would not hold my breath, although Fuchs had some marked successes with suits filed on behalf of the residents of Gush Katif after their expulsion.

In any event, Fuchs says that it is not just Olmert who would resign. According to Clause 19 of Basic Law (Israel functions with basic law, not a written constitution), if the prime minister resigns, the entire government resigns with him. Livni now has the title of Acting Prime Minister, but that only applies if the prime minister falls ill, not in a situation such as this. She cannot just step into Olmert’s place and carry on.

The president — in this instance Acting President Dalia Itzik — then selects an MK to establish a new government. Normally the MK most likely to be able to formulate a new coalition is sel
ected, and, undoubtedly, Netanyahu is waiting for this moment. But the choice is strictly up to the president.

(In theory, if Livni were to be awarded leadership of the Kadima party via an internal process, I imagine she could be called upon. However, her election as successor to Olmert is not a certain thing — as others would vie for this position and Olmert would presumably block her to the best of his ability.)

During the interim of time allocated to the MK for formulating a new government, the old government stays in place. If the MK fails to form a new government, elections would be held.

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Joke of the day: I read a statement made by PM Abbas, indicating that he hopes the Winograd Committee results will not interfere with the peace process.

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Doesn’t seem to me that Abbas is doing his part for the "peace process." According to a report released today by the Middle East News Line, even after receiving training and new equipment from the US, Abbas’s Presidential Guard is failing in its role at the border between Gaza and Egypt. Guard commanders are reluctant to use force to stop Palestinian infiltrators into Gaza (who may be terrorists or may be smuggling material) — especially if they are from Fatah. Just a few days ago Fatah gunmen attacked the security forces at the Rafah Crossing.

The lessons here are significant (if only the US were to learn them): It is impossible to effectively bolster forces "loyal" to Abbas in actions against other Palestinians.

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The IDF operating in Nablus last night, found a bomb ready to be set off and dismantled it. Meanwhile, 17 Palestinian Arab fugitives throughout Judea and Samaria were arrested.

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This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/4/30/april-30-2007-shaky-times.html

 

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