Olmert to IDF: Israel Won War But Must Correct Failures

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told top IDF staff Thursday that Israel did not lose the war with Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon last summer – and in some important ways, Israel actually won.

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Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 09:11

Olmert made his remarks Thursday night as former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Shomron presented the findings of his investigation into the army’s management of last summer’s war in Lebanon, including the actions of the General Staff.

The five hour meeting of the IDF General Staff was also attended by Defense Minister Amir Peretz, as well as outgoing IDF Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz.

“If someone had told me the day before the war in Lebanon started that within half a year the border with Lebanon would be quiet and instead of armed Hizbullah fighters there would be 15,000 Lebanese army troops supported by an international force, I would have told him he’s crazy – but that’s the situation today,’ said Olmert.

Olmert tempered his positive spin on the IDF’s performance during the war with a warning that Israel must work to prevent a repeat of the failures that did occur.

“We must utilize the lessons of the war to invest in the human and economic resources of the army so that the failures experienced in Lebanon are not repeated,” he said.

One of those lessons was the clear loss of Israel's deterrence capabilities, according to a number of military experts, as well as politicians and grassroots organizations that called for a state commission of inquiry into the mismanagement of the war. A state commission of inquiry is appointed by the President of the High Court of Justice, not by the government. Testimony gathered at such hearings may be used in later court action and the commission has the right to dismiss high public officials, including the prime minister, if they are found culpable in the probe.

Meanwhile, the Olmert-appointed Winograd Commission continues its own investigation into the war and its failures. Former Chief of General Staff Moshe Ya’alon made a second appearance before the commission on Thursday, responding to questions raised by his first appearance. Ya'alon was asked about relations between the military and political echelons, as well as the development of the ground forces. Outgoing Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is scheduled to address the commission on Sunday.

The commission also heard testimony Thursday from the defense minister and is expected to question the prime minister as its final witness in February. An interim report on the commission’s findings is set to be released sometime in early March.

Even as Israel examines its performance during the war with Hizbullah terrorists in southern Lebanon, information has come to light that Russia may have been involved in supporting Hizbullah during the war.

For the past ten years, Russia has been tracking IDF movements in the Golan Heights from listening posts it established in Syria.

According to a report from Israel’s Channel 2, Russia has passed information on to Hizbullah. Russia has also sold advanced weapons to Syria and Iran, who then forwarded the arms to Hizbullah.

Russia has also sold anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, as well as provided nuclear technology to the Islamic Republic and is building at least one nuclear reactor in the country.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened to “wipe Israel off the map,” and vowed to continue his nation’s uranium enrichment program, while insisting that Iran’s nuclear development activities are geared to peaceful domestic use.