Analyis: Halutz turns a potential blamefest into a learning experience

The politicians have new bones to pick, and the IDF has completed its internal investigations.

halutz fadc tough 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
halutz fadc tough 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The two-day seminar for the IDF senior officer corps at Hatzor Air Force Base is a master stroke by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz. By coupling together the presentation of the findings of the various teams probing the army's conduct during the Lebanon war with the IDF work plan for 2007, he is transforming what was initially a blamefest, with fingers pointed mainly at him, into a learning experience. Furthermore, the size of the forum - hundreds of officers with ranks of colonel and upwards - will not be conducive to the kind of accusation trading that characterized some of the gathering of generals over the past months. Halutz is using this event, on what is his air-force home ground, to reassert his control over the army. Behind the scenes there are grumblings of a whitewash; but short of an open rebellion, it's hard to see how he can lose by hosting this event. What a far cry from the expectations immediately following the cease-fire in August, when it seemed certain that a wholesale head-rolling would take place. Five months later, the toll is one resignation of OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam and the firing of Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsch, commander of the Galilee Division. Halutz and the rest of his team are still hanging on, preparing the IDF for the next war in the belief that they deserve a second chance. Ronnie Zweigenbaum, one of the leaders of the reservists campaign, who called for the immediate resignation of Halutz, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, said this week that "Perhaps we were na ve; we didn't realize the Israeli public's immobility, but we still believe that it's a process and they won't be able to evade responsibility." The public, however, seems to have moved on, as has the media. The politicians have new bones to pick, and the IDF has completed its internal investigations. And what of the other inquiries that set out to discover who is to blame? A central member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said this week that their subcommittee won't be rocking the boat. Chairman Tzahi Hanegbi isn't interested in causing that much trouble for his colleague Olmert. It also does not seem likely at this point that the embattled state comptroller, Michah Lindenstrauss, will be issuing a damning report in the near future. His office has enough problems right now. Which leaves us with the Winograd Commission appointed by the government. Peretz told a group of bereaved parents on Sunday that if the commission decides to place the blame on him, he will resign. Truth be told, he might not have that much to be worried about. On Monday it was reported that the commission would deliver a comprehensive interim report in a month, much earlier than expected. That doesn't mean that the wars leaders need to start updating their CVs. It's hard to see the 80-year-old Rotarian Winograd, a pillar of the establishment with quarter of a century on the bench, delivering an earth-shattering verdict. In the past he's always been regarded a "safe pair of hands" in which to entrust sensitive judgments. As head of the public committee that examined the case of captured and disappeared airman Ron Arad, he decided that Israel should continue to regard Arad as being alive, despite the opinions of most experts. As chairman of a special panel convened to decide the fate of ex-defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai convicted of sexual assault, he ruled that the war hero could keep his general's rank. Neither does the identity of the witnesses appearing before the commission signal a report containing personal recommendations. Instead of burrowing deep into the ranks to find out the multiple failings in the army's organization, a large proportion of the 44 witnesses so far are former generals and politicians who testified to the situation on the northern border in the past, long before this summer's war. On Monday MK Effi Eitam, who commanded the Galilee Division seven years ago, took the stand. According to reports from unnamed sources on the committee, the report will be "a landmark document that will form the IDF doctrine in the years to come." If Winograd's track record is anything to go by, he will produce a high-minded report, heavy with profound strategic insights but perhaps with a lighter personal chapter.