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Analysis: Wagering on Winograd

A weight of dread will be lifted off Olmert's shoulders when he knows what's in the report.

April 26, 2007 23:40
3 minute read.
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"The Winograd Report was released amid much fanfare and expectations but had virtually no impact other than inspiring demonstrations and further reports about how to solve the same problems." That sentence is not a prediction of the future, but a look into the past. Judge Eliyahu Winograd, who heads the committee investigating the Second Lebanon War, chaired another panel in 2001 on how to solve the crisis in higher education. The Winograd Committee recommended lowering university tuition by 50 percent over a five-year period. More than five years later, a new group of students clashed with police at a violent demonstration in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, the 13th day of their nationwide strike protesting a proposed hike in tuition. Like most reports written by prestigious panels in Israel, the first Winograd Report is gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. There is plenty of room on the shelf for the second Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War. Due to the Israeli tradition of avoiding the implementation of such reports, the talk about Winograd causing a major upheaval in Israeli politics before its results are known is almost as detached from reality as it is premature. Dozens of words have been wasted in newspapers and radio gabfests speculating about the contents of the report. But the fact is the commission has done a remarkable job, by Israeli standards, of preventing leaks. No one will know what is really in the report until Monday, when it is delivered to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office, presented at a press conference and posted on-line in English and Hebrew for all the world to read. No matter what the report says, a weight of dread will be lifted off Olmert's shoulders when he knows what's in it. The public relations campaigns of Olmert and everyone mentioned in the report will begin the moment it is released. The following are four possible scenarios in the wake of the report and their probability:

  • Committee blames Olmert for most of the war's mistakes and recommends that he quit - low probability: MKs from across the political spectrum call upon Olmert to resign. Even Kadima MKs begin to speak publicly against their leader. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz convene supporters in the party to discuss seeking the Prime Minister's Office. A May 3 rally in Tel Aviv calling for Olmert's resignation attracts many thousands of people. If Olmert decides to quit, the Kadima charter says a temporary leader should be chosen until an election is held among party members. The temporary leader cannot run in that race, so Livni decides to yield her right as vice prime minister to automatically succeed Olmert. Shimon Peres, who decides not to seek the Kadima leadership, is chosen unanimously by Kadima to be temporary party chairman and prime minister.
  • Committee finds Olmert and Peretz more responsible than others involved in the war but also blames others - high probability: Olmert says he will take the report under advisement and work to implement its military recommendations. He says he does not consider it binding. The Tel Aviv rally calls for Olmert and Peretz to resign. Neither of them do. Peretz is defeated handily in the May 28 Labor race. Olmert resists public pressure and lasts in office until an investigation to be named later.
  • Committee equally blames Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, former defense ministers Ehud Barak and Shaul Mofaz, former IDF chiefs of General Staff Dan Halutz and Moshe Ya'alon - medium probability: The May 3 rally calls upon Olmert and Peretz to quit. Barak's political comeback is stymied as is Ya'alon's political career before it started. Peretz loses the Labor leadership race. Olmert remains in the Prime Minister's Office with even less popularity than before.
  • Committee blames Halutz and former generals Udi Adam and Gal Hirsch for most of the war's mistakes - medium probability: All the politicians and military men still in uniform get off easy. Peretz gets a boost in the polls. The Tel Aviv demonstration calls for the appointment of a real commission of inquiry. Olmert is glad he didn't appoint one.

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