Families, reservists upset with report

Protesters to continue urging Barak to quit; Channel 2: 45% believe defense minister must resign.

Barak 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Barak 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Bundled in a red ski jacket and holding a framed photograph of her son Yaniv, who was killed at age 24 on August 13, 2006, the last day of the Second Lebanon War, Mirta Szajbrum shook her head as she watched the release of the final Winograd Report on Wednesday night. "I'm disappointed," she told The Jerusalem Post when the committee finished presenting its report on the army's and the government's conduct before and during the war. "It should have been harsher with the government," the immigrant from Argentina said. Having waited so long for this moment, she didn't intend to spend it quietly at home. So she joined dozens of bereaved relatives and reservists who braved the stormy weather and gathered in a tent on the lawn in front of the Tel Aviv apartment building where Defense Minister and Labor Party leader Ehud Barak lives. Bereaved parents, two groups of reservists and the Tafnit Party have been demanding that Barak keep his promises to force the government's collapse by taking Labor out of the coalition. The heavy rain hitting the tent walls as Szajbrum and the others watched the committee's presentations on large screen televisions didn't keep them from understanding the report's bottom line. "It didn't tell the government to go home," the bereaved mother said with a frown. Since the war's end, Szajbrum's grassroots group of bereaved parents has maintained that poor decisions were made during the campaign. Plastered across her coat was a bumper sticker reading: "Olmert, you are fired." "During the war, I had two sons in the army. One lived and one died. They gave their all, but the politicians didn't," Szajbrum said. "The IDF took responsibility; it made changes and fired people. But the politicians haven't. I want to ask [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert, when my two sons were in the war, where were yours?" The government, she said, needed to ask forgiveness from the 119 families who lost children during the war. Prior to the conflict, she said, Yaniv had just finished a post-army trip to South America and was studying for university entry tests for environmental studies. "It was his first reserve duty," she said. At 7 p.m. on August 12, Yaniv left Lebanon and called to say he was in Israel. On his way to the shower, at 7:30, he was ordered to go back in. He died the next day, at 12:30 p.m. "He came back in a coffin," Szajbrum said. Pointing to the picture of her son in uniform, smiling and crouching under shrubbery, she said it was taken in Lebanon before his death. "We found it in his camera," she explained. On that last day of the war, her other son, Tal, was also in Lebanon and had to be taken out by helicopter after Yaniv died. "It took them 12 hours to get him," she said. She, like the others in the tent, did not need the Winograd Report to tell them what they already believe is true: Enough mistakes occurred during the Second Lebanon War for them to demand that this government go home. "We won't be quiet. I owe it to my sons. We owe it to our children who were killed and to the next generation," Szajbrum said. Reservist Tomer Boadana acknowledged the disappointment in the room when he said, "From our perspective, it is another sad evening." Fellow reservist Ronen Shoval said it was significant that the report linked the military and political leadership. There was enough there to demand that the prime minister and the defense minister take responsibility, he said. But since he expects that Olmert plans to remain in office, his energies and that of those in the tent should be directed at Barak, he added. "You [Barak] can be on the side of the good, or of the bad," Shoval said. The Winograd Committee failed in that it did not issue personal recommendations, but the nation won't be satisfied with that, he said, adding: "It wants leaders who feel obligated to the people, and not to their [cabinet] seats." A report that a survey due to be released on Channel 2 found that 56 percent of the public wants the government to step down as a result of the report was greeted by applause. Tafnit Party leader Uzi Dayan told the Post, "It is a very serious report. The excuses have finished, but the spins continue," he said. "We won't let that happen." While the protesters planned to dismantle their tent outside Barak's home late Wednesday night, they expect to set it up again early next week outside the Knesset, ahead of a legislative session on the Winograd Report. Bereaved mother Ariela Goldman told the crowd: "We have succeeded in bringing up children who will agree to go to war. For this impossible thing to continue to happen, the leadership has to be responsible to us and not ask that we be responsible to it."