idf lebanon march 298 .
(photo credit: IDF [file])
Labor Party leader and former prime minister Ehud Barak told the Winograd Committee that after the kidnapping of two soldiers and the killing of eight others on July 12, 2006, it was inevitable that the government would launch a broad attack against Hizbullah, because it was led by civilians and had a new chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz.
He added that although he did not publicly express criticism at first, he had his doubts that this was the right choice.
"I told friends: 'Let's wait three weeks. It might turn out that you will come to realize that we had two prime ministers [referring to himself and Ariel Sharon] who were not so confused and not so blind, but rather felt sufficient peace of mind and self-confidence to determine when and how [we would strike] and that [the other side] would not force a second front upon us."
Missing from Winograd (July 26 editorial)
Winograd rejects Olmert's request
Ben-Eliezer's Winograd testimony
Mofaz's Winograd testimony
Peres's Winograd testimony
On Monday, the Winograd Committee released the censored transcript of Barak's testimony before it on November 28, 2006.
Barak also criticized the process by which the Olmert government decided to retaliate for the Hizbullah surprise attack. He said the decision to massively attack the Shi'ite militia was a legitimate one as far as international public opinion was concerned. The question, he continued, was whether it was a wise one.
In making such decisions, the government had to "estimate the true preparedness of the enemy in real time, what possibilities of action does he have, what is his real capability, what is the capability of the home front, what is the concrete and diplomatic context in real time. What do we want to achieve and, in order to achieve it, what do we have to invest, how much will it cost us and is the result worth it?"
He implied that the Olmert government had failed to do this.
At another point, Barak said he read on the day after the war began that then-vice premier Shimon Peres had been the only minister to express reservations about the decision to bomb targets in southern Lebanon and to ask how Hizbullah would respond.
The committee spent almost half the time asking Barak about his decision to have the IDF leave the security zone in southern Lebanon in March 2000, how he had prepared the northern home front for the possibility of a new round of fighting with Hizbullah and why he did not attack the Shi'ite militia after it kidnapped three IDF soldiers in October 2000.
Barak replied that his first item of business at the time had been to determine the condition of the abducted soldiers. The army had found large quantities of blood at the scene of the ambush and was not sure the soldiers were still alive.
Later, he continued, it became a simple matter of common sense.
"It's true that I said we would respond harshly to an attack after we left south Lebanon, but this statement did not absolve the prime minister and defense minister from assessing the situation concretely and asking what the purpose of the operation would be and whether it would be good or bad for Israel."
Barak said that at the time, Israeli troops were facing an intifada in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and severe rioting by Israeli Arabs inside the Green Line.
"It simply looked to me like the wrong thing to do," he told the Winograd Committee. "And I say, to the credit of the IDF, that the army did not recommend launching a broad attack."
Barak added that the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 was accompanied by a massive injection of funds to strengthen the civilian and military fronts in the North. But the situation changed drastically over the next six years, he said.
Barak remained prime minister for 11 months after the evacuation of southern Lebanon. During those months, Hizbullah's presence along the border was essentially civilian. It was only later that the militia built fortifications and became a military threat, Barak said.