Defense officials: War report says PM acted reasonably

Report says IDF ground ops at end of war "did not achieve its objectives"; PMO "optimistic" and "satisfied" with findings.

By DAN IZENBERG, JPOST.COM STAFF, AP
January 30, 2008 00:18
3 minute read.
Defense officials: War report says PM acted reasonably

winograd promo 224. (photo credit: )

The final Winograd report into the Second Lebanon War 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. The officials, who reviewed the report after it was presented to Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak at 5 p.m., spoke on condition of anonymity pending its formal release. According to television reports the Winigrad Committee found that "the military ground operations in the last few days of the war did not achieve its objectives." Moments after viewing the report, the prime minister consulted with his lawyer, Channel 10 reported. However, the Prime Minister's Office said that it was "optimistic" and "satisfied" with the findings of the final report. Panel chairman Eliahu Winograd was set to meet with journalists at the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha'uma) later Wednesday evening and give a statement including the main points of the report and general comments on the work of the committee. Immediately afterward, committee member Ruth Gavison will present a summary of Winograd's address in English. At the same time that the classified report was presented to Olmert and Barak, the committee released a nonclassified version on www.vaadatwino.org.il. The committee has already made it clear it will not recommend imposing sanctions on anyone who played a key role during the period under examination. Assuming that this holds true, Olmert has already announced that he will not resign in the wake of the report. In a hard-hitting interim report published on April 30, the panel focused on the years following Israel's unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon in March 2000 and on the first days of the Second Lebanon War, culminating in Olmert's address to the Knesset on July 17, 2006, where he set out the goals of the campaign. The interim report concentrated on the government's decision-making process during those days. Although the committee did not make formal recommendations last spring, it minced no words about its conclusions. "We found that the decision to launch a military campaign and the process leading up to it were flawed and that those mainly responsible for the flaws were the prime minister [Olmert], the minister of defense [Amir Peretz] and the chief of General Staff [Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz]." From the time the interim report was published until a short while ago, committee members Professors Ruth Gavison and Yehezkel Dror and Major-Generals (res.) Menahem Einan and Haim Nadel have been studying the material and drafting the final report, which will cover the rest of the war. A significant part of it will be devoted to the last three days of the war. On Friday, August 11, 2006, as the French and American ambassadors to the UN were feverishly working on the final draft of a cease-fire agreement involving Israel, Hizbullah and Lebanon, Olmert gave the green light for a large-scale ground attack. The aim of the offensive was to reach the Litani River and surround the Hizbullah forces in southern Lebanon. Thirty-three IDF soldiers lost their lives in the campaign, which was aborted after the UN Security Council brokered cease-fire went into effect at 8 a.m. on August 14. The decision to launch the final operation when the UN negotiations were nearly completed and Olmert knew that he had only 60 hours to fight, plus the heavy loss of life incurred by the IDF was one of the most controversial events of the monthlong war. Olmert maintains that the last offense forced the mediators to draft an agreement more favorable to Israel. Many, including the US and French ambassadors to the UN, have rejected this claim. The Winograd Committee is expected to present a thorough investigation of the process leading to the decision to launch the campaign, and the roles of the army and government in making the decision. Even if it does not make recommendations or come to conclusions involving specific individuals, it is hard to imagine that the panel's findings will not highlight the failures of those who played key roles in the government systems that operated during the final days of the war.


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