Winograd Findings Lead to Calls for Olmert to Resign

The Winograd report on the 2nd Lebanon War has not yet been published, but leaked previews are again prompting calls for the govt's resignation.

Hillel Fendel ,

The interim Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War has not yet been published, but leaked previews have already prompted calls for the government's resignation.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and ex-IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz all came in for varying degrees of sharp criticism regarding their functioning in last summer's war with Hizbullah. Some details of the preliminary findings were publicized by Channel Ten news over the weekend.

Though the members of the Winograd Commission were practically hand-picked by Olmert, they found him to have "failed" in the way he oversaw the war. The word "failure" repeats itself several times in the Commission's summary of his performance, though neither he, nor anyone else, is specifically called upon to resign.

Findings in Brief
Olmert "acted with hastiness and arrogance," the Commission found. He did not consult with bodies other than the IDF, such as the National Security Council, and did not even convene the mini-security Cabinet before ordering the army to act. He was led by the army, instead of leading. The Prime Minister did not demand that the army provide him with alternatives, and did not properly deal with the "local operation" becoming a full-fledged war.

Peretz was castigated for assuming the position of Defense Minister altogether without having been properly prepared for such. He also did not properly study the problems at hand, and did not consult sufficiently with the experts in his office. Peretz was cleared of responsibility for the army's lack of preparation, which largely occurred in the years before he became Defense Minister.

Gen. Halutz, who resigned following the army's internal investigation of the war three months ago, was found to have belittled Hizbullah's Katyusha rocket capacities, and did not provide alternatives to the government.

Full Version on Monday
The full version of the report is to be publicized at 5 PM on Monday, and Olmert will receive a copy one hour earlier.

Though the Commission was appointed in order to review the errors of the Second Lebanon War so that the proper lessons might be learned and the deficiencies be corrected, the immediate result of the leaked findings appears to be only political. The question at hand is: Will public opinion force the Prime Minister to resign? Olmert and allies are bracing to remain in power, the Opposition has already begun steps to oust the government, and some members of Kadima and other coalition parties are remaining on the fence, waiting to see what develops.

Opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu of the Likud met on Friday with far-left Meretz party leader MK Yossi Beilin, to discuss the report's political ramifications. Beilin said, unsurprisingly, that he would not support a replacement government headed by Netanyahu. Despite this, following the Channel Ten revelations, Beilin said that Olmert must resign immediately.

Within the coalition, Labor's Danny Yatom - an underdog in the Labor race for party leader next month - said the entire government must resign. MKs Zevulun Orlev and Aryeh Eldad (National Union/National Religious Party) also called, once again, for Olmert's resignation.

National Union faction chairman MK Uri Ariel has already submitted a legislative proposal for the dissolution of the Knesset and new elections.  "The Winograd conclusions and the resulting public sentiment require that we prepare for new elections," Ariel explained, "and we might as well come up with an agreed-upon date among the various parties."

Anti-Government Rally on Thursday
A large anti-government protest rally has already been announced for this Thursday in Tel Aviv. The protest has been called by the Civil Coalition, headed by retired IDF General Uzi Dayan.

A critical question is whether Olmert's Kadima party will stick with him. On the one hand, Kadima generally supported the war effort whole-heartedly, but some pockets of resistance were heard within a few days of the beginning of the war. Most worrisome for Olmert is the fact that his main competitor, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, will be able to say that she asked for limitations on the offensive and the opening of diplomatic channels just days after the war started, but Olmert did not agree.