Winograd Committee member Prof. Yechezkel Dror explained what motivated the committee to refrain from calling for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s resignation: the preservation of the "peace process" and fear of Opposition head Binyamin Netanyahu winning the resulting elections.

“Listen, if we think the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, will advance the peace process, that is a very honorable consideration,” Prof. Dror told Maariv newspaper, which headlined that comment on its front page Wednesday.  “What do you prefer?" Dror asked rhetorically, "an Olmert-Barak government or new elections where Netanyahu will rise to power?”

The comments registered shock and condemnation from MKs, who said that it was clear that the Winograd Commission did not adhere to its mandate of examining the Second Lebanon War, but saw itself as fit to choose Israel’s political leadership.  MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party), who heads the Knesset Control Committee, has called an emergency session to which Prof. Dror will be asked to explain himself.

Prof. Dror explained to Maariv that in his view advancing the diplomatic process with the Palestinian Authority will save more lives, and it is therefore justified to take a prime minister’s willingness to engage in negotiations into account when issuing a report like the Winograd Committee published last week. “The peace process, if successful, will save so many lives that it should be given great weight,” Dror said. “It is not right to only look at one aspect.”

Asked if the bereaved parents of the Second Lebanon War are not a consideration, Prof. Dror responded: “I am thinking about the bereaved parents in a future war. If the peace process will prevent a war in the future, so think about those parents, who won’t undergo the greatest pain there is.”

Summing up his viewpoint, Dror said: “The needs of the future must balance the need for justice in the present.”

Opposition Comments

"Today it has been revealed that the Winograd Committee was corrupt and influenced by foreign consideration," said Likud MK Gilad Erdan. "It is now clear why the report made no recommendations [regarding termination of office of government officials] and why the first meeting of the committee took place in the Prime Minister's Office. It is now clear that the proper place for this report is in the trash can." Erdan called on Shas and Labor to withdraw from the government and "restore the faith of the nation by bringing down the government and going to early elections."

MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) went further, demanding an official State Committee of Investigation, as was demanded initially. “It was clear from the beginning that those handpicked by PM Olmert were picked for a reason and now we see what it is,” Shalom said. “It does not matter how long it takes, we need a committee that will really truly examine what happened and name who is at fault.” Shalom explained that at a time when the public already has such little trust of its elected officials, it is critical that such an investigation be carried out in a sincere manner.

Prof. Dror told Army Radio's Razi Barkai Wednesday morning that he had spoken "as a private citizen and not as a member of the Winograd Committee." He also said that since his statement on a Netanyahu government was phrased as a question, it did not constitute taking a position on the matter.

"But you are a member of the committee," Barkai said. Prof. Dror ended the coversation, saying he will take no further questions.

Mordechai Chaimovitch, the Maariv author, said he stands by the interview and has it all on tape. "Prof. Dror knows the rules of the game and knows what it means to be interviewed," Abramovitch said.

The other four members of the Winograd Committee are reportedly furious with Prof. Dror for his statements.

MK Limor Livnat (Likud) called on former Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Winograd himself to issue an explanation or repudiation of his fellow committee member’s words.

The Etrog Phenomenon Once More

In 2005, leading journalist and commentator Amnon Abramovitch expressed a similar sentiment to Prof. Dror's on behalf of Israel's media at a pre-Disengagement conference at Jerusalem's Van Leer Institute. "I think that we need to protect [then Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon like an Etrog [a citron fruit delicately handled on the Jewish festival of Sukkot]." He later elaborated in Maariv (April 26, 2005) that due to Sharon's willingness to destroy Jewish communities in Gaza "we need to protect him not only from political obstacles but also from legal obstacles as well."