Time to report

The Winograd Committee needs to have its final say, and soon.

October 9, 2007 22:03
3 minute read.
Time to report

IDF leaves lebanon 298.8. (photo credit: AP [file])

Vice Premier Haim Ramon is predicting that the "Winograd Committee's decision not to make personal recommendations" regarding those who played leading roles in the conduct of the second Lebanon war "will contribute to the government's stability." How does Ramon know? Is Ramon privy to something about which the citizenry is being kept in the dark? Whether he is or is not, his predictions, along with the sonorous sigh of relief emanating from the Prime Minister's Office, are exacerbating the existing unease about the committee appointed by Ehud Olmert to probe his own government's handling of the war. The committee's conception was always troubling. It would have automatically received more credibility had it been a state judicial commission appointed by the Supreme Court chief justice, instead of a panel hand-picked by the very premier whose stewardship was a prime focus of its work. Thus the claims reported in the Hebrew media this week, notably by Channel 2 and Ynet, that no personal recommendations against any political or military higher-ups will be issued in the committee's final report only accentuate the preexisting disquiet. And forecasts like Ramon's only revive concerns about the committee's lack of independence. That said, the committee itself has issued a statement cautioning the public not to heed the leaks. It has studiously neither affirmed nor denied anything of substance. The upshot is that, at this juncture, intimations about its plans must be considered speculative. Moreover, the much-touted personal recommendations were never automatically expected, nor are they necessarily crucial. Such recommendations were absent from the committee's scathing interim report, which only covered the six years preceding the war and the war's first five days. Personal conclusions (as distinct from recommendations) were outspokenly drawn at that interim stage, and they were devastating. It's hard to conceive that there would less caustic conclusions in the final report that will deal with the war's subsequent stages. This is material potentially far more detrimental to Olmert and his colleagues. While pledging to implement the interim report's recommendations, Olmert has hitherto ignored the conclusion implicit on many of its pages, a conclusion recognized and essentially endorsed by his foreign minister when she told him that it required his resignation. It remains to be seen if as harsh or still harsher a final report - even if devoid of a direct call for him to vacate his office - would trigger the political maelstrom he avoided at the interim stage. Conventional wisdom is that Olmert would be willing and politically able to discount anything less than an unequivocal recommendation to quit. Ramon's gleeful reaction to the initial Ynet account included his assertion that "what hurts Israel's democracy most is instability of government. It's clear to all that when the government is stable and there are no elections in the offing, the ability of the government to govern will grow and it will become far stronger." That is Ramon's prediction because "the Winograd Committee wasn't set up to make heads roll but to chart courses for correction as soon as possible." This was Olmert's oft-repeated pretext for preferring a committee of his own appointing rather than a state commission. The latter, he averred, would get bogged down in testimony and legal procedures and take too long. Speed, Olmert stated, was of the essence. But we've had anything but speed. The committee has thus far exceeded early modest expectations with the seriousness of its work. But to justify the terms of its inception, it should have already produced its final report. The only way to end the constant rumor-mongering and speculation which have dogged it from the outset is for it now to deliver what it was commissioned to produce. If the Winograd Report only comes out when further events - and possibly further grievous mistakes by the government - overtake and overshadow its subject matter, then its conclusions may be rendered irrelevant and the lessons it would have subsequent governments internalize may be offered too late. The Winograd Committee needs to have its final say, and soon.

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