Committee rejects bid to force out PM

Winograd members agree harsh report required, but decide not to take Dror's demand for tough stance.

Dror 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Dror 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Winograd Committee has reportedly decided not to take an overly harsh tone with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in its final report after a serious dispute on the matter. Committee member Prof. Yehezkel Dror demanded a tough stance, which would "place a loaded gun on Olmert's table" and force him to resign, Channel 2 reported on Thursday night. The other four members agreed that a harsh report was required, but argued that most of the responsibility for Israel's performance lay with the army, not the prime minister. Dror then insisted that his opinion be noted in the final report as a "minority position," but this was also rejected by the others. Channel 2 reported that the dispute escalated to the point where some of the members threatened to disband the committee. However, Dror eventually accepted the majority's ruling. Ahead of the January 30 release of the report, Olmert has formed a team to help him survive its political aftermath made up of Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel, Vice Premier Haim Ramon and coalition chairman Eli Aflalo. Kadima officials who spoke to Olmert Thursday said he was determined to survive any political rebellion against him and that he would have low tolerance for any political maneuver by Labor chairman Ehud Barak. The defense minister slammed Olmert on Thursday for blocking NIS 260 million to protect Sderot and the communities around the Gaza Strip. "Olmert is preparing to make sure that Winograd does not develop into a snowball he won't be able to stop," a Kadima official close to Olmert said. "Barak is more afraid of elections than Kadima is, and with his polls and [Labor party] debts, he should be." Sources close to Barak said he had not yet decided how to act after the Winograd report was released but that he was interested in forcing Olmert out without causing an election. Barak believes that an election is the last thing that Israel can afford now. Following Israel Beiteinu's departure from the coalition on Wednesday, Olmert has been left with a fragile coalition of 67 MKs. Olmert will continue to hold Israel Beiteinu's two portfolios until after the Winograd report is issued and then pursue drafting United Torah Judaism into the coalition. Yehezkel has asked Israel Beiteinu MK Stas Meseznecov to continue to chair the Knesset Finance Committee temporarily. Olmert's opponents in Kadima are preparing a maneuver to force him out and replace him with either Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz or Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon was still suffering from the trauma of attacks by Likud party rebels when he formed Kadima, so he made it impossible to overthrow the party chairman. Kadima MK Avigdor Yitzhaki said he would get around the problem by trying to replace Olmert as prime minister with a no-confidence motion in the Knesset and not bothering to try to replace him as Kadima leader. A Maagar Mohot poll broadcast on Israel Radio Thursday found that the general public and Kadima voters would prefer that Livni take over for Olmert if he is forced out, while Labor and Likud voters would prefer Mofaz. The poll also found that most Israel Beiteinu voters wanted the party to stay in the government, but the general public did not.