The final report of the Winograd Committee examining the government's performance in the Second Lebanon War was delivered to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday evening. Winograd then read aloud its conclusions at a press conference in Jerusalem's Binyanei HaUmah Conference Center.
The 500-page report (click here for full report - in Hebrew) found "serious faults and defects in the decision making processes in both the political and the military levels and the interface between them" in the course of the Second Lebanon War. "Israel entered a prolonged war, which it initiated, that ended without a clear victory militarily."
The report summed up the war with the phrase "a great missed opportunity" and laid the blame "mostly with the military." It continued, however, by saying, "Partially responsible was the weakness projected by the political echelon."
The committee stood by its original commitment to refrain from issuing personal recommendations and does not mention PM Olmert by name, though it states: "It should be emphasized that the fact that we avoided laying personal blame does not mean that there was no such blame." It says it refrained from naming names in order not to deter any future leaders from making tough decisions during war time.
* Failures began before the war, the report said. The decision to go to war was made without strategy. The government had to choose between a quick, decisive air offensive followed by withdrawal or a full-blown ground war that would involve a call-up of the reserves. The government delayed the decision and ended up in a drawn-out conflict with ground-troops unprepared for deployment until the very end.
* It has been pointed out that a "code word" used in the report whenever the committee wished to say that somebody erred so significantly that something ought to be done is "keshel" (failure). The report explains in Chapter 17, Paragraph 25 that "failure" is not the same as mere faulty judgment.
* The army was criticized for a lack of organization of ground forces and failure to request the call-up of the reserves for a ground invasion until the first week of August. Clear objectives were lacking commanders lacked faith in their superiors, as well as their subordinates in certain cases.
* The report sees the United Nations' Resolution 1701 - the ceasefire - as an accomplishment.
* Contrary to the recent focus of reservists' criticism, the report said that the final ground operation was "practically a necessity." It said that although its goals were legitimate, it was not conducted properly and therefore did not contribute anything positive.
* The report criticized the emphasis on protecting soldiers at the expense of the Home Front. "The IDF comported itself in the war as if the fear of suffering casualties among its soldiers served as a central element in the planning processes and in its operational considerations," the report stated. The committee went so far as to say that "the IDF's most basic values came undone in the war. Much of what had been seen as a basic foundation of the military organization remained, in some of the operations, empty verbiage." In this context, the committee lists "the tenacity in pursuing the target and dedication to accomplishing the mission; strict operational discipline; combat leadership and the role of commanders in battle; the avoiding of taking personal responsibility and a willingness to obey, while giving constructive criticism to those in charge." The report cites a connection between the aversion to suffering casualties and a feeling that the missions were routine security missions (batash) as opposed to actual warfare.
* There were severe failures in the defense of the home front. "Hizbullah rocket fire on the Israeli home front continued throughout the war and the IDF failed to provide an effective response. Daily life was disrupted, residents left their homes and entered bomb shelters...These results had far-reaching consequences for us and our enemies."
* The report cites positive aspects of the conduct of the Second Lebanon War, in addition to criticism of it. The accomplishments cited were, first and foremost, the volunteer spirit of the reservists who were called up for the war, and the heroism exhibited by individual soldiers. It also says that the Air Force had impressive accomplishments.
Winograd summed up the 30-minute oral summary of his commission's report on the Second Lebanon War with a statement that Israel "cannot survive in this region unless the people within it and outside it believe that it has political leadership, military capabilities and social strength that will enable it to prevent their enemies from realizing their goals – even by force."
This basic truth, the committee states, is common to all political approaches. "Attempts to reach peace or an agreement must come from a place of military might and of ability and willingness to fight for the country, its values and residents," the committee stated. "This has deep ramifications, well beyond the Second Lebanon War," it said.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office released statements leading up to the Committee's press conference saying that Olmert is "relieved" and believes the report spares him the harsh criticism many expected, particularly regarding the final offensive of the war.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert released a short reaction to the report Wednesday evening. Olmert's statement said that he has faith "in the IDF, in its commanders, in its soldiers and abilities." The statement did not include any reaction to the criticism leveled at Olmert in the report, but said that he was treating it "with full seriousness," just as he had treated the interim report.
Cabinet Secretary Oved Yechezkel told Army Radio shortly after the press conference that Olmert has no plans to step down. "The prime minister and the government take responsibility and will make the required rectifications," Yechezkel said. "Taking responsibility means staying on the job to fix and improve - continuing to lead the way forward."
IDF officials are noting that the army has not waited until the publication of the report to take action to correct its mistakes in the war. More than 70 committees were appointed within the IDF to examine various aspects and make recommendations that are already being implemented. Those recommendations match those reached by Winograd, for the most part.
Nevertheless, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has appointed a special team to read the Winograd Commission's report on the Second Lebanon War and to come up with conclusions and recommendations. The crew includes the IDF Spokesman, the Chief Military Attorney and three members of the General Staff.
The Winograd Committee
The Winograd Committee was appointed and hand-picked by Prime Minister Olmert as a compromise response to demands for a State Commission of Inquiry, which would have had more authority to investigate and use its results in court proceedings. The committee was headed by retired Justice Eliyahu Winograd. The other committee members were Prof. Ruth Gavison, Prof. Yehezkel Dror, and retired IDF Major-Generals Menachem Einan and Chaim Nadel.
The Movement for Quality Government (MQG) maintained that an independent inquiry was necessary, and was joined in its demand by IDF reservists, including senior officers who accused the government and General Staff of behaving irresponsibly. The groups announced in response to the prime minster's decision to put retired Judge Eliyahu Winograd at the head of the commission of inquiry that "Only a commission of inquiry headed by a judge with legal jurisdiction appointed by the president of the Supreme Court, not by the prime minister, is the solution."