Kadima Coalition: Waiting for Winograd Axe to Fall

Kadima coalition members are scrambling to control the damage expected later today when the Winograd Commission publishes its interim report.

Hana Levi Julian,

The Winograd Commission
The Winograd Commission
Members of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party are preparing damage control plans for late Monday afternoon, after the publication of the Winograd Commission interim report. The commission investigated the government’s behavior in the period prior to and during the first days of the Second Lebanon War.

Leaks to the media over the weekend of portions of the impending report portend criticism of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz (Labor Party) and former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz.

In anticipation of the impending scandal, members of the Kadima party are scrambling to distance themselves from the party Chairman, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

According to Kadima sources, some party MKs and other officials began quiet conversations Sunday to map out a survival strategy, which included the prospect of early elections and the possibility Prime Minister Olmert might be forced to resign.

However, there is still support for the party’s Chairman, says one associate, who claimed the Prime Minister could not be held completely responsible for the mismanagement of the war. He and other party members say Kadima will present a united front to support the Prime Minister regardless of whispering behind closed doors.

The Prime Minster has said he personally intends to fight for survival and has no plans to step down from his post, regardless of conclusions reached by the Olmert-appointed Winograd Commission.

Defense Minister Expected to Face Strict Censure
Defense Minister Amir Peretz is expected to come in for a large share of the commission’s criticism, not only for his lack of military experience but also for his apparent reluctance to educate himself about the IDF’s structure and functioning.

Peretz, who also serves as Labor Party Chairman, faces an uphill battle to retain his post in party primaries scheduled for later this month - a fight that may be exacerbated by the probe’s findings.

Minister Peretz, according to sources who viewed parts of the report, will be slammed for bypassing Ministry-related defense resources and running the war with a private group of advisers instead.

There was also a question in the report as to whether the Labor Party Chairman should have accepted the position of Defense Minister in the first place, given his lack of experience.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Also Condemned
Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz is also expected to receive harsh criticism for failing to offer viable alternatives to war as a response to the cross-border attack by Hizbullah terrorists.

Lt.-Gen. Halutz will reportedly be held responsible for underestimating the Katyusha firepower that the Hizbullah terror organization had built up in the six years following Israel’s retreat from southern Lebanon in 2000.

IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped and a Katyusha rocket barrage was fired at northern Israeli towns in a multi-pronged attack which ignited the war.

The army’s Chief of Staff has already resigned his post in the wake of a separate internal IDF investigation which held him largely responsible for mismanagement of the war at the command level.

A senior military source quoted by the Ynet news service warned, however, that the careers of other IDF officials may yet be in jeopardy as a result of the investigation.