Background: Long road from war's end doesn't finish today

Will the high hopes hanging on the Winograd report be finally quelled?

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The Winograd Committee on the Second Lebanon War is due to present its interim report to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz at 4 p.m. on Monday, and to release it to the public an hour later. The full report in Hebrew, and a summary in English, will appear on the committee's Web site at 5 p.m. At the same hour, the members of the panel will hold a press conference at Jerusalem's Binyanei Ha'uma International Convention Center, where its chairman, retired Tel Aviv District Court president Eliahu Winograd, will read out a statement on the committee's work. The interim report will reportedly contain seven chapters. The seventh deals with the panel's conclusions and the lessons learned from the war. The report will not recommend measures to be taken against leaders involved in the war who, in the committee's opinion, did not do their jobs properly. However, it is not finishing its work with the publication of the interim report. It is due to publish a final report this summer that will cover most of the fighting from July 18 to August 16, when most of the setbacks suffered by the army and most of the casualties and damage sustained by the home front took place. In addition to the chairman, the Winograd Committee comprises political science Prof. Yehezkel Dror, law Prof. Ruth Gavison, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Menahem Einan and Maj.-Gen. (res.) Haim Nadel. The committee was appointed by Olmert and Peretz to investigate the government's handling of the war. From the moment of its inception, it has been the subject of bitter controversy. Public interest organizations such as the Movement for Quality Government, Ometz, and ad hoc groups of reservists demanded that a full-blown state commission of inquiry, whose members are appointed by the president of the Supreme Court, investigate the war. But it took Olmert a long time to even agree to a government committee of examination whose members he himself appointed. Soon after the war, Peretz announced that he was appointing a committee headed by former chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Amnon Shahak. Shahak had been one of Peretz's advisers during the war. On August 28, 2006, Olmert announced that three different panels would investigate various aspects of the war; Shahak's the army, one headed by former Mossad head Nahum Admoni the political echelon, and one led by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss the home front. However, the plan did not get off the ground. The Admoni Committee lacked any legal prerogatives, there was much criticism of Admoni himself , and there was criticism of the separation of the military and political investigations. Olmert then went back to the drawing board and decided to establish a committee of examination under Article 8 of the Basic Law: Government. His proposal was approved by the cabinet on September 17, 2006. According to the cabinet decision, the members of the committee were to be appointed by Olmert and Peretz. Although there are significant differences in the powers of state and government-appointed committees of inquiry, the government essentially gave the Winograd Committee all of the important prerogatives of a state commission of inquiry, including the right to subpoena witnesses. Nevertheless, the protest groups were dissatisfied and petitioned the High Court of Justice, charging that the Winograd Committee suffered from a built-in conflict of interests since it was appointed by the same body that it was meant to investigate. The petitioners, the Movement for Quality Government and Ometz, argued that the panel would not be able to be critical of the government. The court ruled four to three to reject the petitions and allow the committee to do its work. On Monday, the public will be able to see for itself whether the fears of the petitioners were well founded.