Powered by WebAds

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Live-blogging the Winograd Report release

The Winograd Commission's Final Report has just been handed to Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. In an hour, at 6:00 Israel time, the report will be handed to former 'defense minister' Amir Comrade Peretz and a news conference will begin at which members of the Commission will read a 10-page statement about the report. The key parts of the report will be translated into English for the foreign press by one of the committee members. Israel Radio will have an 'open broadcast' for the next four hours and I will be live blogging that broadcast much of that time. Keep checking back here!

5:13 PM

The Commission will not hold a press conference - they will not answer questions. They will read a statement. Peretz gets the report early because he was one of the people who commissioned the report. Barak today tried to shift responsibility from Olmert to the 'entire government.'
Moreover, the Labor chairman insisted, the entire government was responsible for the failures of the Second Lebanon War - not only Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Israel, he said, was not a presidential regime like the US, in which the president is also the supreme commander of the military.

The cabinet convened Wednesday to discuss "Israel's general security outlook," a strategic and comprehensive field which is not directly related to the lessons of the war.
Conveniently, Barak was not part of the government in the summer of 2006, while the foreign minister, Tzipi Feigele Livni, whose name is frequently mentioned as a successor from Kadima for Olmert, was part of the government.

Kadima MK's and Ministers appealed to Labor to stay in the government, knowing that if there are new elections, they may no longer be in the Knesset.
Kadima MK Yoel Hasson sent a letter to all members of the Labor faction beseeching them to remain in the coalition after the publication of the final Winograd report.

"The Labor party has no reason to quit the government today due to the fact that the Winograd Committee's conclusions are already being implemented," Hasson wrote. "The economy is better than before and even the diplomatic process has emerged from a deep freeze."

Hasson reiterated his message and told the faction members not to repeat former Labor chairman Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's "mistake" in pulling out of the coalition and causing the collapse of the Sharon government.


"The state of Israel will pay a high price if it goes to elections," Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On said at a meeting of Kadima activists in Tiberias. "The prime minister is determined on this score, and no system of pressure will make a difference. For the first time in seven years there is an attempt to create a diplomatic process, [and] the economy is growing."

Housing and Construction Minister Ze'ev Boim also expressed support for the prime minister. "Everyone is talking about accepting responsibility, and I tell you that the prime minister has indeed taken responsibility by repairing, with devotion and exactitude, the failings described in [the Winograd Committee's] interim report," Boim told Kadima activists in Haifa. "Olmert is taking responsibility for lower unemployment, for passing the budget on time and for the decline in the number of terror attacks. Both the people and the opposition know in their heart of hearts that only Olmert can lead this country to accomplishments.
The Commission members have just left Olmert's official residence to go to Binyanei HaUma at the entrance to the city, which is where they will present the report to the press in less than an hour.

A group of reserve soldiers is demonstrating outside Ehud Barak's office in Tel Aviv demanding that he fulfill his promise to take Labor out of the coalition on the report's issuance if Olmert does not resign.

It's freezing cold in Jerusalem - 2 below zero Celsius is expected tonight (colder where I live), and it's windy with more snow expected tonight. It rained today and there will be ice in the streets too. It also is raining and cold in Tel Aviv. But the political framework is hot here right now.

5:26 PM

The Labor party has canceled its ministers' meeting tomorrow morning. Ehud Barak is expected to spend tonight reading the report. Israel Radio's political analyst says that if the report is extremely harsh then Barak is likely to convene a press conference tomorrow morning resigning and if it is extremely light, Barak will also convene a press conference saying that Labor will stay in the government. Otherwise, it will take a few days.

5:32 PM

There's supposed to be an 'unclassified version' of the report on the committee's web site. I haven't found it yet.

5:34 PM

Ehud Barak will definitely hold a press conference tomorrow morning. The Likud will meet at 3:00 and its leader Binyamin Netanyahu will hold a news conference at 5:00 tomorrow.

5:37 PM

From my coverage of the Winograd Commission's interim report:
But the key question here is why: Why didn't the government respond more strongly? And for that matter, why was the government's response to this summer's war so confusing? Some of you may recall that back in July when the government was trying to win the war using only air power I said that the strategy could only work with Dresden-like bombing and I urged the government to do just that. And then when the government sent in the ground troops - and risked their lives rather than those of the Hezbullah sympathizers of Lebanon - it was too little too late. Is the government so incompetent? I believe that the answer lies in the testimony of current Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, who was Minister of Health (if I recall correctly) in 2000:
In his testimony before the committee, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said the decision take a measured respond to the October 2000 kidnapping came from the desire to avoid painting a grim picture of the withdrawal from the security zone so soon after it was carried out, and to prevent the opening of a second front after the outbreak of the second intifada a month earlier.

Sneh added that another reason for the containment policy was to allow the residents of the North "breathing room" after years of living under Hizbullah bombardment.
I want that to sink in for all the Israelis - especially if any on the left of the political spectrum happen to be reading this: The government lied to us. Because they couldn't admit that the flight from Lebanon was wrong, they pursued a policy of 'containment' that was completely ineffective and led to this summer's war. Because they postponed the day of reckoning, when it came (and I don't believe it's over yet), it was much worse than it would otherwise have been. Sounds just like Gaza doesn't it? Well in fact, it is.

But it gets worse because the IDF knew this was a problem seven years ago and was unable to do anything about it. The politicians forced the policy of appeasement on the IDF:
Ahead of the withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, army chief Mofaz established a team to draft the IDF's posture along the border. The head of that team was then-OC Northern Command and current Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. The team's recommendations were brought up for discussion at meetings of the General Staff, and formed the basis for the IDF's operational stance following the withdrawal.

The essence of this stance was to deter Hizbullah by threatening the Lebanese home front in the event of an attack on Israeli civilians or on IDF positions along the border. Soon after the withdrawal, however, it became clear that implementing the plan would be difficult, as Hizbullah continued its provocations, and the IDF refrained from responding.

Ashkenazi warned about this policy as early as August 2000, in a letter to Mofaz. "Since our withdrawal from Lebanon, Hizbullah's provocations are increasing, and this is damaging our security and deterrence, and could eventually lead to a serious deterioration in the situation. There is a need to apply effective pressure on Lebanon or to change the way we react.

"If this doesn't happen the situation will crystallize and turn into a reality we cannot live with," the Winograd Committee quoted Ashkenazi as saying back then.

Former OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Udi Adam, who quit after the war, told the committee, "The containment policy was in effect Israel relinquishing its sovereignty over the border area, while allowing Hizbullah a free hand in the area." [I feel sorry for Udi Adam. I think he was the fall guy for this past summer's foul-ups - and undeservedly so. CiJ]

According to senior IDF officers, the "containment" policy's effects were becoming obvious: The next kidnapping was only a matter of time, and it was doubtful if it could be thwarted.
Israel Radio reports that the final report says that the final ground operation did not attain its goals, but does not blame Olmert specifically.

5:41 PM

The Winograd Commission did not interview Israel's UN ambassador Danny Gillerman about the timing of UN Security Council Resolution 1701's adoption. Gillerman has been refusing to answer questions from Israel Radio all week.

5:44 PM

Here's more on the report that was issued in April:
This is from JPost:
According to the final chapter of the report, which includes the committee's conclusions, Olmert is described as a passive leader who was led by the nose by the army and who did not take charge of the war he was supposed to be commanding

Peretz, who should not have accepted the Defense portfolio in the first place, did not do what he should have to make up for his lack of knowledge of security matters after he accepted the post, according to the report.

And with regards to Halutz, the report said that the former IDF chief of general staff did not take Hizbullah's missile attacks against the northern part of the country seriously and at no time came up with a plan to address the threat.

Olmert will meet with members of the Kadima faction on Monday at 6:45 p.m. in order to discuss the findings of the Winograd interim report which was given to him at 4 p.m., one hour prior to its release to the public.
Neither buffoon is expected to resign
Peretz eventually did have the decency to resign.

5:46 PM

Winograd Commission determines that decision to undertake the ground operation was 'reasonable under the political and military circumstances.' That could leave Olmert as Prime Minister. A lot of analysts will disagree. The key here is that it doesn't accuse Olmert of undertaking the operation to save his image.

5:50 PM

Pensioners' party leader Raphi Eitan - a former general (and Jonathan Pollard's handler) is now on the radio saying that UNIFIL would not enter any area in Lebanon that the IDF had not conquered first. He claims that's why they undertook the operation. The Israel Radio broadcaster is saying that the operation never had enough time to succeed in the first place, and Eitan is arguing. The IDF needed at least 96 hours to attain its goals. It was given 60-66.

5:53 PM

Olmert's office says the report is a 'relief.' Decisions reasonable or better.

5:57 PM

Operation was undertaken so that Israel could stay in the field until UNIFIL took over.

6:00 PM

Commission entering room.

Channel 10 and 2 (television) both say serious defects. Announcement starting.

6:01 PM

Winograd speaking.

Version released to public not complete - they had to keep certain things confidential out of national security considerations.

They even left out confidential matter that has already been published in the media.

No personal conclusions or recommendations in the final report. Restraint from personal liability does not determine that there was none. No difference between political and military echelons. Announcement to point out principle points of report and not to summarize entire report.

Final report principally deals with period after the interim report, but events took place in the shadow of initial decision to go to war.

The two parts of the report (interim and final) should be seen as one.

There was a huge and severe missed opportunity. Israel did not have a clear military victory. Israel had total air superiority and did not take advantage of it. Much of the North sat in shelters. Final ground operation had no military achievements and did not attain its goals. Even during the period from July 18 - August 14, 2006, there were troubling facts. Severe problems in manner of decision making. Failures in IDF high command - mainly in ground forces which were not prepared and did not efficiently carry out orders. No strategic planning in political or military echelons. Defective protection of home front. Weakness based in part on weakness in planning that goes long before the war's outbreak.

After decision to go to war, only two options: short, sharp, painful hit on Hezbullah or changing the face of Lebanon through temporary conquest and clearing out Hezbullah. The way in which decision was made - without first determining which of these options to adopt - was responsibility of both political and military echelons.

Even afterwards, this hesitation continued. Hesitation was bad for Israel. But no orderly discussion of this for weeks. Until first week of August, IDF not ready for ground operation. Israel forced into ground operation after diplomatic process made it impossible - blames both political and military echelon for this.

Poor execution by ground forces. They weren't ready. Israel did not make effective use of its military power despite initiating the war in a limited theater. It relied upon a diplomatic arrangement that allowed stopping the war without a final determination. IDF failed to provide proper military achievement for political echelon but political echelon's coordination with IDF also responsible for that.

Praises reserve soldiers for showing up to war, brave soldiers. IAF had impressive achievements. Even so, political and military echelon had false hope that IAF could win war itself.

Regards UNSCR 1701's unanimous adoption as a diplomatic achievement even if not all implemented and that could be seen from the outset. Even so, no orderly process for planning diplomatic negotiations.

Foreign Ministry worked quickly and orderly to attain UN resolution but was not sufficiently aware of integration of military and diplomatic activities.

Ground operation did not achieve military goals but contribution to diplomatic achievements not clear. Not clear how it influenced Lebanon or Hezbullah in cease fire negotiations. Have to evaluate based on what they saw at the time they undertook the operation - not with hindsight. Cannot evaluate the ground operation as part of failed management of war. Against this determine that original decision to undertake ground operation on August 9 subject to Olmert and Peretz was almost required. This gave Israel military and diplomatic flexibility. Decision to start operation was within professional considerations based on what was before them. Goals were legitimate. No failure in decision itself despite limited achievements and high price. Decision had professional support. There were public political considerations but Olmert and Peretz acted in light of what seemed necessary to them for Israel's interest. The political echelon had to make these decisions and the only evaluation is public and political.

Even so, no serious consideration by political or military echelons whether it was reasonable to expect that there would be real achievements in sixty hours. No control over details of fighting or stopping fighting after UNSCR 1701 adopted. No consideration of why extra time was attained and then the operation was stopped.

Only by examining failures will Israel emerge from this failure. This is how we will do better the next time. Will we be more ready and able the next time?

Recommendations include significant change to political and military coordination in ordinary and wartime conditions. Specifically for this reason have to warn of possible pitfalls: fear of criticism in the event of failure will prevent decisive action. Don't prepare for past wars. Don't correct failures only for appearances. Important to remember that enemy also draws conclusions.

War raised issues that Israel wanted to forget. We won't survive unless we have strong political and military leadership and a strong society. These truths are not dependent on one political approach or another. Have to seek peace and make required compromises, but have to come from military strength and ability and readiness to fight for country. These were central questions that the war presented and they are existential. We hope our conclusions will be a push to correct defects and bring a renewed contention with Israel's long term goals. We thank the public for the trust shown in us. If we cause defects to be corrected, that is our reward.

End - 6:31 PM

6:33 PM

(Filling in from the radio what I didn't get down in live translation)

Winograd said that Olmert reluctant to execute ground operation and Peretz convinced him.

6:35 PM

Interviewing Eitan Cabel of Labor. Cabel refuses to say that Barak will stay in government and points out that interim report is part of final report and places blame on Olmert. Cabel says that the entire war was a failure of the political echelon. Cabel says Olmert told him that entire UNSCR was dependent on ground operation and that's why they agreed to it. Cabel still thinks that Olmert should resign and that Barak may leave the government. He was surprised at the tone, thought it would be much less serious.

6:40 PM

Likud: Olmert should take responsibility and resign. Barak promised to leave coalition.

Tzachi HaNegbi (Kadima, head of Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee): No reason for Barak to resign. Commission was not tempted to follow the nasty publicity that followed Olmert for the last year and a half and offered Olmert an acquittal. Commission rejected signs all over the country that say that Olmert sacrificed 33 lives for 'spin.' It was reasonable and logical.

6:57 PM

Olmert called Peretz today and told him that the Winograd Report 'rehabilitated' him. Excuse me while I puke.

Barak concluding that report 'reasonable and balanced' and not an earthquake. Conclusion from that obvious.

7:34 PM

IDF reaction to report: The IDF views the report as an indictment of the IDF despite the fact that it has already conducted its own investigation and implemented changes over the past year and a half. The report includes severe criticism of the IDF. The bottom line is that the report says that the army did not provide what it was supposed to provide.

The full unclassified version of the report is now online. It's a 617-page pdf document and I am having some problems getting it open.

Israel Radio just read some of the descriptions of the confusion at Bint Jbeil. It's appalling. As far as I am concerned the political echelon bears most of the blame for Bint Jbeil: They were too afraid of causing civilian casualties.

Ehud Barak has announced that he will react to the report "in the coming days." No press conference tomorrow. Amir Peretz will hold a press conference tomorrow to claim that the report exonerates him.

7:53 PM

Israel Radio reports that Olmert and his supporters drank a toast of champagne after the report was released. I'm sick.

8:10 PM

Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yechezkel is denying the champagne report and denying any other 'expressions of joy' in Olmert's office.


At 5:19 PM, Blogger darrell said...

Hi, this site is good stuff. I hope you can read my little essay about gaza, it's at the top of www.darrellepp.com

At 6:15 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - its a whitewash. It holds no one accountable for Israel's defeat in the Second Lebanon War. Certainly not the man who oversaw the war - Ehud Olmert. That's the bottom line.

At 6:43 PM, Blogger J. Lichty said...

It is a politically motivated document which was calculated to save Ehud Olmert from exile.

The harshness of the interim report is apparently as bad as it gets for Olmert.

Labor stays, Shas stays and Israel continues its descent into weakness and paralysis.

I am sorry Carl. I truly am.

At 6:59 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

None of the defects analyzed in the report are going to be corrected. The people responsible for the failures still think they haven't done anything wrong. As a result, Israel is going to be no better prepared for the next war than the last one and the one thing it still won't have - is a strong and effective government which enjoys public trust and which can address the country's looming security challenges.

The current government, pre-occupied with stamping out the Winograd fallout and enjoying a five percent public approval rating can neither have public trust nor deal with the security challenges Israel needs to overcome. One would think Olmert and colleagues would do what is best for the country than for themselves.

If their reaction today is any indication, responsibility is not their middle name.

At 7:02 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Lichty - I agree with your assessment. Israel today has a culture of apathy. No one thinks anything is going to change.

They're probably right. It won't.

At 7:09 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - yes Barak is going to stay. But then he is going to be associated with the shortcomings and failures of the government.

That's probably the only good news to come out of the fact Kadima will probably stay in power for least another year.

At 7:13 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Did Peretz have the decency to resign? Or was it only after he was defeated by Barak in the primary?

At 7:19 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Soccer Dad - Amir Peretz would still be Defense Minister today if Ehud Barak had not defeated him in the Labor Party primary.

This crew running Israel is not responsive to public opinion. As long as they stick together, they can pretty much tell the Israeli people to go pound sand.

At 7:49 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - yes, the army was due to get some knocks for its shares of mistakes. But the political echelon got off lightly for its political and policy failures. Winograd will probably be remembered as the lamest excuse for buck passing and failure avoidance in Israel's history.

At 8:18 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - if the Israel Radio report is true, then something has changed in Israel. You can toast with champagne if no holds you accountable. Then again that's the essence of Kadima - the more you stand for nothing, the fewer people you offend.

At 9:27 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Norman F. Thanks that's what I thought. Carl wrote that he had the decency to resign. That wasn't how I remembered it (or how I blogged it.) Though Michael Oren wrote somethhing similar (to Carl.)


Post a Comment

<< Home