Haaretz (Editorial)
January 31, 2008 - 6:09pm

Because they were so preoccupied with the final 60 hours of the war, and because of the fact that the Winograd Committee exonerated Ehud Olmert from an implied accusation that he decided on a ground operation at the last moment only in order to improve his political position, people seem to have failed to hear the extraordinarily serious remarks read out by Judge Eliyahu Winograd in his summarizing announcement to the public. The blood libel against Olmert was removed from the agenda, but on the other hand, the committee declared him unfit to conduct a war.

The prime minister has no reason to rejoice, certainly not to drink a toast, and it is doubtful whether he has a right even to breathe a small sigh of relief. The final Winograd report is worse than the partial one because it asserts that after the failure of the first days, no conclusions were drawn, no changes were made, there was no improvement in either the level of decision making or in the performance of the government or the Israel Defense Forces, and all this in spite of the fact that the government and the military command had 34 days to pull themselves together.

The IDF's advantage vis-a-vis a small fighting organization was not exploited. Israel did not win. The government did not choose between the two operational military alternatives on the agenda - a short and painful blow, or a thorough ground operation - but instead equivocated and let itself be "dragged" until the end of the war. The level of decision-making on all levels: political, military and the interface between them, was unacceptable.

The war was a "serious missed opportunity," which ended without an Israeli victory even though Israel had everything it needed to win. The IDF did not provide a solution to the rocket fire, the fabric of life in the north of the country was disrupted, and all these findings are "very troubling," as the committee says, because of their far-reaching implications for Israel and the entire region.

At no stage were strategic thinking and planning in evidence, the war's management was flawed, performance was flawed and there was no intelligent and effective use of the power at the country's disposal. The IDF failed, says the committee, but the blame cannot necessarily be placed on the army, and the political echelon cannot be absolved of responsibility.

In the short announcement to the public, the committee repeatedly emphasized the failure of the political echelon, the military echelon and the interface between them. The IDF did not provide the political leadership with a suitable military achievement, and responsibility for this outcome lies mainly with the IDF, "but the misfit between the mode of action and the goals set by the political echelon share responsibility."

The committee also considers the final ground operation a failure, although the decision to embark on a ground attack was "almost inevitable" in light of the fact that Katyushas continued to fall on Israel and Hezbollah was seen as the victor. But here too, at the final stage, there were no serious consultations, the question as to whether there was a reasonable chance of achieving something was not asked, there was no follow-up of the details of the fighting on the part of the political leadership, and it is not at all clear how and when the decision to stop the operation was made.

The committee asserts that Israel lost the war with Hezbollah. It lost due to flawed management rather than objective circumstances, since it embarked on the war out of choice, at a time that it determined. The abstract of the final Winograd report points to a prime minister who lacks the ability to conduct a country at war.


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