PM vows to carry on, fix failures

Olmert cites gov't responsibility, says it "would not be right to resign."

olmert gets winograd 224 (photo credit: GPO)
olmert gets winograd 224
(photo credit: GPO)
In a taped message broadcast on Monday night, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - reading from a text - admitted that mistakes were made and that the committee's findings were "grave and difficult." The Winograd Committee slammed Olmert for his performance during the war, saying the prime minister demonstrated "a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence." Olmert said that many lessons needed to be learned and mistakes corrected. "I intend to work to fix what needs to be fixed, thoroughly and quickly," he said.
Olmert said he would convene a special cabinet meeting on Wednesday and recommend establishing a team to study the report and implement the findings. "It would not be right to resign, and I don't intend to do so," Olmert said. "This government made the decisions, and this government will deal with fixing the shortcomings." Within two hours of the publication's release Olmert met with Kadima and Pensioner Party ministers in his Jerusalem office. He said that while there was a need to learn the lessons, "there is an Israeli tendency not to give someone who made a mistake the chance to correct himself." "But," he said, "there is no chance of learning the lessons and of truly dealing with the problems if there will be a political crisis here." Olmert also spoke with both Shas chairman Eli Yishai and Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman, and sources close to Olmert said he believed that his coalition remained stable. According to these sources, Olmert thinks that a political transition at this time - when the nation needs to focus on the shortcomings highlighted by the report - would be bad for the country. Although the report was harsher than indicated in leaks over the weekend, these sources said it was within range of what was expected in the Prime Minister's Office. While Olmert spoke with Lieberman and Yishai, senior officials in his office also talked with senior officials in the US administration. White House spokesman Tony Snow came out with a statement supportive of Olmert at his daily press briefing on Monday, saying that Bush "works very closely with Prime Minister Olmert and thinks that he's essential in working toward a two-state solution. The president remains committed to it." Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, continued to keep her cards close to her chest, neither using the publication of the harsh report to launch a bid to replace Olmert within Kadima, nor giving him any real public support. At the Kadima meeting, Livni said "there was an attempt to drag me into the political-personal court, but I don't intend on playing there. This is not something personal between me and the prime minister." Livni said that she would only relate to what was inside the report after she studied it. She said that she had told Olmert that this was not a personal issue. "We are talking about the future of the country and challenges that face us, and that is bigger and more important than both of us." Livni said that the report was "difficult," and there was a need to "create new norms" regarding how decisions in the country were made. "On the face of it, it looks like there is a need for a fundamental correction," she said. According to the interim report, Olmert "bears supreme and comprehensive responsibility for the decisions of his government and the operations of the army. His responsibility for the failures in the initial decisions concerning the war stem from both his position and from his behavior, as he initiated and led the decisions which were taken." The report took the prime minister to task for making up his mind "hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one." According to the report, his decisions were made "without close study of the complex features of the Lebanon front and of the military, political and diplomatic options available to Israel. He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the IDF, despite not having experience in external-political and military affairs. In addition, he did not adequately consider political and professional reservations presented to him before the fateful decisions of July 12." The report also took Olmert to task for setting unrealistic goals for the campaign, goals unachievable in light of the modes of military action that were authorized. The report states that he also failed to "adapt his plans once it became clear that the assumptions and expectations of Israel's actions were not realistic and were not materializing."