Watchdog, reservists praise Winograd

C'tee: Interim report to include personal findings on Olmert, Peretz, Halutz.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, AP
March 13, 2007 15:31
3 minute read.
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Watchdog organization the Movement for Quality Government expressed satisfaction on Tuesday with the Winograd Committee's decision to include personal findings on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz in its interim report on the summer's Lebanon war, Army Radio reported. "There is definitive importance in [the fact that] the criticism of these three individuals will be specifically about the decision to go to war," the group said. Reservists, too, were satisfied with the committee's announcement. "The Winograd Committee is starting to carry out what should have been done in the first place, but Olmert and Peretz shouldn't wait for the conclusions - [they] should resign immediately," they said.

  • The second Lebanon war: JPost.com special report MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), who has petitioned for the publication of the Winograd testimonies, said the committee's decision emphasized the need to release the testimonies of the prime minister, the defense minister and the former chief of staff before the interim report's presentation. Earlier Tuesday, the Winograd Committee announced that contrary to media reports that have been circulating on the subject, its interim report on the war's handling would include conclusions about individuals in the government and the defense establishment - particularly Olmert, Peretz and Halutz. The report, which will be published at the end of the month, will focus on the three top officials' responsibility for the decision to go to war, and will present an analysis of the period leading up to the war, beginning with Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, the committee said in a statement. The announcement contradicted a Channel 2 report last week, which said that the conclusions of the committee's interim report would not target individuals, but would focus on the performance of the political and defense establishments as a whole. Media reports have speculated that personal findings on Olmert, Peretz and the OC Northern Command at the time of the war, Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam, would be reserved for the committee's final report, which will be published this summer. However, Tuesday's statement aimed to set the record straight. "In recent days, the media has publicized assumptions, guesses, speculations and journalistic 'information' regarding the Winograd Committee's report and when it will be given," the statement said. "None of these reports have reflected the views of the committee or its members." The committee said it would issue partial findings in the second half of April, given the urgent need for the political and defense establishment to start implementing its conclusions and recommendations. Classified sections are to go only to Olmert and Peretz, whose decisions will also be analyzed, while unclassified material will be made public, the statement said. Following the committee's announcement, MK Arye Eldad (NU/NRP) recommended that Olmert and Peretz "start packing their belongings" to avoid further humiliation for the state of Israel. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office declined to respond to the announcement until the committee's conclusions are published. The panel's interim report could determine Olmert's political fate. Although the commission doesn't have the power to dismiss him, many analysts think a critical report could force the prime minister to resign under the pressure of public opinion. Last month, Olmert gave seven hours of testimony and underwent intense questioning before the commission, in a closed-door hearing widely perceived as his last chance to avoid censure. His public approval rating plunged after the inconclusive war against Hizbullah. His government has been criticized for failing to meet its main war objectives - destroying Hizbullah and returning the two Israeli reservists whose July 12 capture by the guerrillas sparked the conflict. In addition, reserve soldiers returning from the battlefield complained of poor preparations and lack of food and ammunition. The army has also been disparaged for failing to prevent Hizbullah from firing some 4,000 rockets into Israel.

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