PM aide: IDF said it was ready for war

Turbovich told Winograd c'tee that Olmert knew hitting Hizbullah would expose home front to attacks.

October 25, 2007 23:59
3 minute read.
PM aide: IDF said it was ready for war

yoram turbovich 224.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's chief of staff, Yoram Turbowicz, testified before the Winograd Committee that Olmert was aware from the beginning that by hitting back hard at Hizbullah for abducting IDF soldiers, he would be exposing the home front to rocket attacks. Turbowicz also said the army had told him it could handle the rocket threat. "On Wednesday and Friday [of the first week of the war,] the army told us, the brain trust, that the home front was prepared for the consequences of missile attacks on Israel, from Haifa on north, and the possibility of attacks south of Haifa," he told the committee, according to a censored transcript of his testimony released Thursday. The IDF also told Olmert it was ready for battle, Turbowicz said. "The talk [on Wednesday, July 12, 2006, the first day of the war,] was that the army was all prepared. I don't remember whether this was said at the meeting itself or in the lead-up to the discussion. But the army said, 'This is why we train all the time, this is what we prepare for.' Woe if I had to tell you the army was not prepared.'" At one point, then-chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz told Olmert the army could handle a war on two fronts, the Gaza Strip and south Lebanon. Olmert favored hitting back hard at the Hizbullah from the beginning and understood the implications of such a response, Turbowicz told the committee. "It was clear to us that we were talking about a serious step in which you don't know in advance all of the possible twists and turns," he said. "But it was obvious we were talking about something serious, the opposite of a picnic, and that the home front would be hit hard." Turbowicz added that when the cabinet decided to bomb the Shi'ite neighborhood of Dahiya in southern Beirut, they knew there would be a strong rocket retaliation by Hizbullah. But the army had reassured Olmert that the home front was prepared. Turbowicz added that Olmert had warned Halutz to be careful not to let Israeli soldiers be abducted. He said the prime minister knew that after the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit on the Gaza border in June 2006, Hizbullah would try to do the same. Turbowicz told the Winograd Committee that at that moment, Israel had seemed to be on the verge of obtaining Schalit's release and Hizbullah wanted to prevent this from happening. Turbowicz also said that from the beginning, Olmert had a clear idea of what the aim of the war should be, that is, implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559. He wanted to have the Lebanese army deployed along the border with Israel instead of Hizbullah. Turbowicz also said that Olmert lacked an operations room at the Prime Minister's Office and a mechanism for providing him with information on all daily developments during wartime rather than just security issues. "I think there should be some sort of body that can include and give appropriate weight to all the positions, to brainstorm with the army before meeting with the prime minister, so that all the facts can be considered and weighed, to determine the advantages and the risks in a much more open way," Turbowicz told the committee. "The military aspect is the dominant one, but not as dominant as the army thinks." He said that the National Security Council could fulfill this role, but that this would require substantial change. NSC employees would have to be paid as much as those working for the security branches, he said, and would have to be more talented, so that the security forces would respect them enough to listen to them. Furthermore, the head of the NSC would have to a personal appointment of the prime minister who would leave office together with this boss, Turbowicz said.

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