debkafile: The Lebanon War inquiry commission hands down the equivalent of a death warrant against Olmert government for its “grave failures”

Prime minister Ehud Olmert is accused of grave failures of judgment, responsibility and caution in his decisions to go to war in Lebanon last summer and its management. His decision was hasty and undertaken without in-depth study of the circumstances in the arena, a proper plan of action and clearly defined objectives.
Full partners in these failures are defense minister Amir Peretz and former chief of staff Dan Halutz.
These are the key findings of the tensely-awaited 250-page interim report evaluating the government’s conduct of the Second Lebanon War 2006 presented by an inquiry panel led by Judge Eliahu Winograd, Monday afternoon, April 30, 2007.
They are far more damning than predicted. The resulting political turbulence is likely, at the very least, to lead ministers to resign and force cracks in Olmert’s government coalition.
Winograd explained that personal findings will be drawn without recommendations at this stage. This may be reconsidered in the final report.
The interim report covers the run-up to the war which erupted on July 12 and its first five days. Winograd explained that personal findings will be drawn without recommendations at this stage. This may be reconsidered in the final report.
Here are the high points: The prime minister’s response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on July 12, 2006, was decided without taking into account that the Hizballah would launch a rocket blitz on the north. Diplomatic options that might have been integrated in the military action were not considered. His grasp of the strategic implications was feeble. The government was asked to make decisions on only the vaguest information. The ministers voted for war uncomprehending of its meaning.
Olmert’s decisions rested on ignorance of the military and diplomatic realities.
He was inexperienced yet did not seek advice in qualified quarters. He failed to make adjustments even after realizing that none of Israel’s objectives were attainable. The prime minister was not the army’s rubber stamp. He made the decisions.
The army was unprepared. Even as hostilities progressed, orders were held up for the mobilization of reserves, while the home front received no attention or preparation for a rocket offensive.
The defense minister, lacking in military and political experience, was unable to appreciate a strategic situation, yet failed to take advice, heed alternatives proposed to him or develop an independent approach. Therefore, Amir Peretz fell down on the job and was a weak link in the government’s ability to contend with the challenges.
Former chief of staff Halutz acted on impulse, failed to inform the government of the scale of the strategic threat and the fact that the Israeli Defense Forces was unready to stand up to it. Halutz was irresponsible and lacking in judgment. In the event, the 33-day war cost 160 Israeli casualites, failed to recover the kidnapped soldiers or crush the Hizballah.
The panel stressed that the IDF was caught unprepared because of the conception that had come to dominate political and military leaders and Israeli society at large that conventional wars belonged to a past era and Israel would no longer be called on to fight for its survival. For this misconception, which must be urgently corrected, the panel also blamed the previous administrations headed by Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon and the Israeli media. He also dated the deterioration in Israel’s military preparedness to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000.
Judge Winograd stated that Israel’s diplomatic effort and the way the foreign ministry functioned under Tzipi Livni as part of the overall government fiasco would be treated in the final report.
The Winograd commission will release transcripts of the testimony tendered by Olmert, Peretz and Halutz within two weeks. Its final report is due in August, 2007.

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