Analysis: Why Winograd won't do the public's work for it

Report will not declare Olmert, or anyone else in senior echelon, must go.

Olmert 298 (photo credit: AP)
Olmert 298
(photo credit: AP)
We can be sure of one thing on Wednesday morning, hours before the government appointed Winograd Committee is due to publish its final report on the Second Lebanon War. The committee will not do the public's work. In other words, it will not explicitly declare that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, or anyone else in the senior political or military echelon, must go. The committee made this clear several months ago, when it informed the High Court of Justice that it would not present findings, conclusions or recommendations that stood to harm anyone involved in the conduct of the war or the events leading up to it. The Final Winograd Report: All the latest news and analyses Instead, the findings will focus on the functioning of the various systems established to cope with the crisis that suddenly broke out on July 12 with the abduction of two IDF reservists. No one really knows what these conclusions and recommendations will look like. Until now, there have been commissions of inquiry that have made personal as well as administrative recommendations, such as the Agrantat and Or Commissions, and there have been those that have only made administrative recommendations, such as the Shamgar Commission on the Hebron massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein. Until now, for the most part, the government has only implemented the personal recommendations. That is because it is easy and straightforward to do so and the public understands them. For example, the Cahane Commission of Inquiry into the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982 ruled that then-defense minister Ariel Sharon should leave his cabinet post. In 2003, the Or Commission recommended that Guy Reiff, the commander of the Misgav police station, be dismissed from the force for acting on his own without proper backup during the Israeli Arab sector riots of October 2000. It is the recommendations dealing with the underlying problems that emerge from investigations that are almost never implemented by governments. And because the recommendations involve complex processes that take time, the public soon forgets them. Is that what will happen here? Will the Winograd Committee publish well-thought out, learned suggestions that will gather dust on shelves while all of those involved in the war who have not yet voluntarily resigned or been passed over for promotion remain unaffected? Not necessarily. The war is still almost as fresh a wound as it was in the summer of 2006. Too many suffered and died. The government clearly did not handle the situation properly and many people are still very angry. Some of the anger is artificial. Olmert's political rivals see the war fallout as a chance to depose him and force new elections. But for others, the anger is genuine and not influenced by political calculation. The question is, how harsh will the Winograd Committee findings be? Harsh enough and obviously, if not explicitly, aimed at Olmert to persuade the undecided that he must go? Or mild enough so that outrage will be limited to a minority of the public and those politicians who want to oust him? If the report is bad enough, if enough coalition MKs feel duty-bound or that it is a politically wise move to vote against the government, it will fall. Some of the politicians who hold the balance between confidence and no confidence in the government will be gauging which way the wind of public opinion is blowing. As for the committee's recommendations for improving the government's operational systems, they will only stand a chance of being implemented if they are straightforward and as easily accomplished as dismissing a politician or functionary from office.