Political Unrest Ahead of Winograd Report

A week before the release of the Winograd Report on the government's handling of the Lebanon War, bereaved parents hand in their own report.

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Hillel Fendel ,

A week before the release of the long-awaited Winograd Report on the government's handling of the Lebanon War, bereaved parents hand in their own report - and it's not pretty. 

The Winograd Report is likely to contain stinging criticism of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's handling of the Second Lebanon War, which may even lead to public pressure for his resignation - to which he he has said he does not intend to give in.  But the report by parents of fallen soldiers, submitted to the Knesset Wednesday under the name "How the Mighty Have Fallen," minces no words - and calls directly for his resignation.

The alternative report also calls on Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of the Labor Party, to fulfill his promise of several months ago, and quit the coalition if the Winograd Report says Olmert handled the war poorly. 

Barak took over as Defense Minister after Amir Peretz - his predecessor in both the Defense Ministry and the Labor Chairmanship - was ousted by the party, largely because of his performance during the war. 

The Winograd "Compromise"
The Winograd Commision was appointed in September 2006, just a few weeks after the Second Lebanon War ended - the result of public pressure amidst a general feeling that Israel had done poorly in the war.  It is to submit its final conclusions to Olmert next Wednesday, January 30.

Calls had been made for a full-fledged State Commission of Inquiry, but Olmert finally agreed only to convene a lower-level investigation, naming former Tel Aviv Regional Court President Eliyahu Winograd to head a commission that would issue non-binding conclusions.

Shortly after the war ended, Olmert, then-Defense Minister Peretz, and then-IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz were widely accused of lack of preparedness, widespread misjudgments, and even making military decisions based on internal political considerations during the 2006 war with Hizbullah. In addition, many said the trio did not achieve the goals it promised before agreeing to a ceasefire - most notably, the release of the two soldiers who were taken captive by Hizbullah on the eve of the war.

On the other hand, as time passed, many on the left began claiming that Olmert should never have gone to war at all - and the Winograd Commission investigated these claims as well.

Conclusions Not Officially Binding
Halutz has since resigned, and Peretz was all but deposed - leaving only Olmert to face the music.  The Winograd Commisssion announced several weeks ago, however, that it would not issue recommendations regarding the political future of Olmert or other military or political figures.  Nonetheless, the Commission's conclusions are expected to be critical in determining Israel's political future for the coming months.  Possible scenarios include public pressure for Olmert to resign, Labor's quitting the coalition, the calling of new elections - or the continuation of the status quo, despite all.

The alternative report prepared by the bereaved parents includes detailed accounts of how their sons fell in the war's various battles with Hizbullah terrorists in southern Lebanon.  "Our report contains specific conclusions regarding the responsibility of the leaders," said Ariela Goldman, whose son Noam was one of 15 soldiers killed in four battles on August 9, 2006.  She told Army Radio's Yoni Sheinfeld that the parents' report is therefore the "true national investigative report."

The alternative report has a publicly political side to it, in that the "conclusions" chapter was written by Tafnit Party leader and avowed Olmert-opponent Uzi Dayan.



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