Analysis: Don't blame us, blame the system

The top three testimonies before the Winograd Committee were, for their rivals, disappointingly mild.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The top three testimonies before the Winograd Committee were, for their rivals, disappointingly mild. Opponents of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz were waiting confidently for revelations and scathing attacks by each on the other - attacks that would have hastened the political demise of the beleaguered leaders. Instead, it turned out that, behind closed doors, they covered each other with glowing praise. Olmert in particular described his defense minister and rival in the warmest of terms. Even then-chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz kept his criticism to a minimum, saying only that Peretz, as leader of a political party, didn't dedicate as much time as he would have liked to military affairs. The panel might have found that Halutz failed to supply information to the cabinet, forcing it to authorize his plans with insufficient oversight, but the two politicians express only minor misgivings over the IDF's conduct during the war. In all, they are both extremely positive toward the then-army chief. Is this the dysfunctional and quarrelsome leadership we were led to think was in charge during the Second Lebanon War? Reading the committee's protocol, released on Thursday, a week and a half after its interim report was published, puts the accounts of Olmert, Peretz and Halutz into an interesting context. Winograd made the clear ruling that Israel, if not losing the war, had definitely not emerged the victor. But to read the testimonies, it's quite clear that all three regard the outcome as a success. Yes, they agree, there were failings - setbacks on the battlefield and the prolonged bombardment of civilians in the North. But the overall result was an improvement in Israel's situation and a severe blow for Hizbullah. So why is the entire country convinced that we failed? Bad PR and a hostile press, explains Olmert. Peretz and Halutz agree it's an image problem. Obviously they didn't succeed in convincing the committee that we won. Still, blame has to be placed somewhere, and if the soldiers and officers were brave, the generals professional, the politicians conscientious and the civilians under fire sturdy, who is going to take the heat? The members of the leadership triumvirate dedicated a significant portion of their performances in front of the committee to criticizing the system of decision making. A system, of course, which had its origins way back, long before they were elected or appointed. They all agree that the National Security Council should finally be allowed to take its rightful place. Why wasn't it done before the war? Ask their predecessors. All three arrived at the committee after undergoing months of intense verbal attacks from just about every front - the public, the angry reservists, the families of fallen soldiers, retired generals, politicians and media. Reading their testimonies, it's clear that they felt confident that the Winograd panel, genteel and mature, would give them a fair hearing. In his turn, each unburdened himself to the committee, recounting the hardships and frustrations of the job, the terrible responsibility of sending men to be killed in battle and the ingratitude of the public. Despite some tough questioning, they all seem to have been under the impression that they were appearing before a sympathetic audience. Imagine their shock last week when they read what the five committee members really thought of them.