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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Olmert tells the Knesset why he hasn't resigned

In a bizarre speech to the Knesset today, Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert explained why he has not resigned as a result of the Winograd Commission's interim report:
But Olmert remained defiant in the face of the scathing criticism, saying that the Winograd report called for "implementing the conclusions of the war but not for heads to roll."

"I did not go to war hastily and I believed then, as I believe now, that this was the necessary decision under the circumstances," he said. "I didn't avoid responsibilities and I recognize the failures and successes of the war."

The prime minister said that there are "no easy wars and no victories without a price," adding that the "price of the war was one worth paying."

The prime minister then spoke of what he claimed were the war's achievements.

"I was in the North two weeks ago and the IDF commanders showed me the positions at which Hizbullah used to aim their weapons. That no longer happens."

Olmert said that UN Resolution 1551 had been implemented. "Hizbullah has withdrawn from the border and the Lebanese army has been deployed in southern Lebanon."

The prime minister quoted UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano as saying: "I want Israelis to understand that the situation in the North has changed. There are no Hizbullah posts, just posters, and they have been replaced by Italian and French tanks. It is the quietest period on the northern border in 40 years."

Olmert added that UNIFIL had reported finding hundreds of Hizbullah bunkers that were completely destroyed.

The prime minister also quoted New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who said that as a result of the war, Hizbullah had been banished from the northern border and that the group had suffered a "massive strategic defeat."

"Lebanon is now weaker but Israel is stronger," Olmert quoted Friedman as saying.

Olmert went on to say that he was proud of his decision to go to war and to react strongly to the kidnapping of the two reservists, the killing of eight soldiers and to the fire on the northern border. "The decision was correct and unavoidable," he said. Adding that there was "no war that was more just."

The prime minister ended by deflecting criticism from the IDF. "The army is the source of our pride and the basis of our strength," he said. "The responsibility for the war lies with the government and with me who leads it. I am responsible for the war's failures and successes."
Olmert spent about two hours deciding whether to go to war. Literally. The ground invasion was too little too late, and the aerial bombing worried too much about inflicting civilian casualties to be effective. Most of the IDF casualties were in the ground invasion.

The government completely abandoned the residents of the north. Those who could go elsewhere under their own power did. The others remained in shelters. And Tom Friedman is an expert on nothing.
Before Olmert's speech, several MKs called on him to quit.

MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud), said that Olmert had "failed as a leader and MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) quipped that the prime minister had created "a new philosophy" by which the more a leader fails, the more he must remain in his position to fix his mistakes.
I would say that Steinitz hit the nail on the head. So did Netanyahu:
Following Olmert's speech, Netanyahu said that the aims of the war, which were described to him by the prime minister, had not been achieved since the reservists were still in captivity and Hizbullah had not been disarmed.

He said that Israel has lost its deterrence and that its was now faced with enemies on three fronts who were continuously rearming.

"The nation has told the government something very simple. You failed, take responsibility and go home," said Netanyahu.
Unfortunately, the consensus seems to be that after the Labor party primary yesterday - which left a runoff between Ehud Barak and Ami Ayalon with Comrade Peretz as kingmaker - the government going home is even less likely to happen. But that's a topic for my post about the Labor party primary, which I've been avoiding all day long.... (I've also been busy working today, but that's another story).

But 'Twas a famous victory.


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