On eve of report, PM visits troops at Gaza border

Olmert pays visit to the IDF's Gaza Division, meeting with both officers and soldiers of the Golani Brigade's 12th Battalion.

olmert 224.88 (photo credit: GPO)
olmert 224.88
(photo credit: GPO)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited IDF soldiers stationed around the Gaza Strip Tuesday, a day before the Winograd Committee is expected to determine whether he acted responsibly in sending ground troops into Lebanon in the last 60 hours of the Second Lebanon War. Olmert paid a visit to the IDF's Gaza Division, meeting with both officers and soldiers of the Golani Brigade's 12th Battalion, hearing briefings and getting a feeling for the day-to-day military activity in the South over the last few months. He was accompanied by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who holds Olmert's political future in his hands with his decision whether to remain in the government or leave it after the Winograd Report is released. The Final Winograd Report: All the latest news and analyses The southern tour was part of the "business as usual" posture Olmert is taking in the run-up to the long awaited publication of the Winograd Report. In this same vein, Olmert is scheduled to convene a meeting of the security cabinet on Wednesday to discuss recommendations for Israel's national security concept drawn up some two years ago by former justice minister Dan Meridor. The prime minister is not expected to hold a press conference after the report is made public in the early evening. Instead, he is expected - if he comes under harsh criticism from the report - to issue a written response to the press through his spokesman. His close confidants, such as Vice Premier Haim Ramon and Finance Minister Roni Bar-On, are expected to speak on his behalf in the media. "I am pleased that I have this opportunity to personally thank you, both on my behalf and that of the government, for the splendid work that you are doing here," Olmert told the troops. "There is a war going on in the South of the country and people in the center do not always feel it or understand it," he added. "When there is a laconic report that the IDF has struck at terrorists, not many can estimate the scope of the IDF activity and the security forces behind it." Olmert pointed out that in the last three months 130 terrorists had been killed, and fortunately the number of attacks inside Israel was significantly down. He said the forces had thwarted innumerable attacks that could have led to a great number of casualties in Israel. Olmert told the forces that his government had approved a NIS 100 billion addition to the country's security budget over the next 10 years. "I am sure that by my next visit here you will have felt the improvements," he said. In addition to Barak, Olmert was accompanied on his visit by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi and OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen Yoav Galant. The joint message seemed clear: The IDF and Defense Ministry leadership has changed dramatically since the Second Lebanon War.