Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Winograd: Israel failed in war, but Olmert acted in good faith (JTA)
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- In the year and a half since Israel’s failures in the Second Lebanon War, Ehud Olmert has weathered incessant criticism that unlike many Israeli leaders, he's no ex-general.

But this very lack of military experience paradoxically may have spared the prime minister the full brunt of a commission of inquiry's censure and saved his political career.

The long-awaited final report by the Winograd Commission published Wednesday painted a dismal picture of Israel’s 34-day offensive waged against Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia in the summer of 2006. It said the war was desperately lacking in strategies, relevant tactics and even proper communication between the army’s top brass and Olmert's government.

"Overall, we regard the Second Lebanon war as a serious missed opportunity," the panel's chairman, retired judge Eliahu Winograd, said at a news conference carried live on Israeli TV and radio. "Israel initiated a long war, which ended without its clear military victory.

"A semi-military organization of a few thousand men resisted, for a few weeks, the strongest army in the Middle East, which enjoyed full air superiority and size and technology advantages."

But while the five-member panel said Israel went to war without sufficient deliberation after Hezbollah abducted two of its soldiers on July 12, 2006 in a cross-border raid, it presented a kinder view of the Olmert government's biggest and most controversial gamble: an 11th-hour ground offensive in southern Lebanon waged even as a cease-fire was being hammered out at the U.N. Security Council.

The report said that move, which cost the lives of 33 soldiers, did not significantly repel Hezbollah or improve truce terms. But it presented this primarily as a function of the poor fighting capability of the armed forces, voicing confidence that Olmert and his then-defense minister, Amir Peretz, approved the offensive in good faith.

"We believe that they both acted out of a strong and sincere perception of what they thought at the time was Israel's interest," Winograd said.

That perhaps more than any other statement in the 500-page report was the reprieve needed by Olmert, who brushed off calls to resign even after Peretz and his wartime military chief, Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, stepped down in disgrace.

The report’s conclusion that Olmert acted out of his perception of Israel’s best interests and that the Israel Defense Forces and various levels of government share responsibility for the war’s failures bolstered Olmert’s position.

His coalition partners gave no indication, at least initially, that the report’s conclusions were sufficiently harsh to prompt them to quit the government and thereby hasten new elections.

Israeli War Report Backs Olmert
JERUSALEM (AP) - The final report into Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon concluded that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not fail in his handling of a key battle and that his decisions were reasonable, defense officials said Wednesday.

More than 30 Israeli soldiers were killed in a last-minute offensive launched shortly before a U.N.-brokered truce went into effect. Olmert has come under severe criticism for ordering the battle, despite his contention that it improved Israel's position before the cease-fire.

The officials, who reviewed the report, spoke on condition of anonymity pending its formal release later Wednesday.

Lebanon war a 'serious' failure for Israel (AFP)
Israel's 2006 war against Lebanon's Hezbollah militia was a "large and serious" failure, according to key report on the conflict issued on Wednesday by government-appointed commission.

"This war was a big and serious failure," retired judge Eliyahu Winograd said as he read out his government-appointed commission's final findings, adding that there was a "great deal of failure at senior political and military levels."

"Entering into the war without an exit strategy was a grave failure," he said.

"The ground operation did not achieve its objectives," he said, referring to the operation in the last few days of the war.

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