Worse than the partial report
By Haaretz Editorial 31 January 2008
Because they were so preoccupied with the final 60 hours of the war, and
because of the fact that the Winograd Committee exonerated Ehud Olmert from
an implied accusation that he decided on a ground operation at the last
moment only in order to improve his political position, people seem to have
failed to hear the extraordinarily serious remarks read out by Judge Eliyahu
Winograd in his summarizing announcement to the public. The blood libel
against Olmert was removed from the agenda, but on the other hand, the
committee declared him unfit to conduct a war.
The prime minister has no reason to rejoice, certainly not to drink a toast,
and it is doubtful whether he has a right even to breathe a small sigh of
relief. The final Winograd report is worse than the partial one because it
asserts that after the failure of the first days, no conclusions were drawn,
no changes were made, there was no improvement in either the level of
decision making or in the performance of the government or the Israel
Defense Forces, and all this in spite of the fact that the government and
the military command had 34 days to pull themselves together.
The IDF's advantage vis-a-vis a small fighting organization was not
exploited. Israel did not win. The government did not choose between the two
operational military alternatives on the agenda - a short and painful blow,
or a thorough ground operation - but instead equivocated and let itself be
"dragged" until the end of the war. The level of decision-making on all
levels: political, military and the interface between them, was
The war was a "serious missed opportunity," which ended without an Israeli
victory even though Israel had everything it needed to win. The IDF did not
provide a solution to the rocket fire, the fabric of life in the north of
the country was disrupted, and all these findings are "very troubling," as
the committee says, because of their far-reaching implications for Israel
and the entire region.
At no stage were strategic thinking and planning in evidence, the war's
management was flawed, performance was flawed and there was no intelligent
and effective use of the power at the country's disposal. The IDF failed,
says the committee, but the blame cannot necessarily be placed on the army,
and the political echelon cannot be absolved of responsibility.
In the short announcement to the public, the committee repeatedly emphasized
the failure of the political echelon, the military echelon and the interface
between them. The IDF did not provide the political leadership with a
suitable military achievement, and responsibility for this outcome lies
mainly with the IDF, "but the misfit between the mode of action and the
goals set by the political echelon share responsibility."
The committee also considers the final ground operation a failure, although
the decision to embark on a ground attack was "almost inevitable" in light
of the fact that Katyushas continued to fall on Israel and Hezbollah was
seen as the victor. But here too, at the final stage, there were no serious
consultations, the question as to whether there was a reasonable chance of
achieving something was not asked, there was no follow-up of the details of
the fighting on the part of the political leadership, and it is not at all
clear how and when the decision to stop the operation was made.
The committee asserts that Israel lost the war with Hezbollah. It lost due
to flawed management rather than objective circumstances, since it embarked
on the war out of choice, at a time that it determined. The abstract of the
final Winograd report points to a prime minister who lacks the ability to
conduct a country at war.