Protesting reservists, activists and bereaved families tell Olmert and Peretz to 'Go home'

The chairman of the Winograd Committee, judge Eliahu Winograd, might have stressed Monday that the panel avoided making "personal recommendations," but reservists and activists did not hesitate to call on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to resign. Shortly after release of the committee's interim report on the mistakes of the Second Lebanon War, the consensus among bereaved parents and reservists was that Olmert and Peretz must resign. "Failures, go home," Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, the chairman of the Tafnit party, said Monday. "The prime minister and the defense minister failed to do their jobs. The Winograd Committee has spoken and now the public has to speak," said Dayan, who called on the public to join a demonstration in Tel Aviv's Kikar Rabin on Thursday. "This is a national call-up order. We, the people of the public coalition, are not going to let the committee's conclusions be ignored. Olmert and Peretz, who neglected the home front and failed in making critical decisions and in running the IDF, have to resign immediately," Dayan said in a statement. "There is no doubt that this document is a badge of shame for the State of Israel and especially for the person who leads it," said Lt.-Col. (res.) Yechiel Gilo, a former battalion commander in the General Staff's elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. Gilo led the reservists' hunger strike held in front of the Prime Minister's Office after the war in Lebanon ended. "The committee said that we failed on all levels, but as citizens who pay their leaders' salaries we ought to be worried," Gilo said. "The public has to use this report as a springboard. After [prime ministers Ehud] Barak, [Binyamin] Netanyahu, [Ariel] Sharon and Olmert, I don't expect someone to step in tomorrow and save us, and I suggest the citizens of Israel lower their expectations, too. "However, the prime minister and the defense minister must resign, if only in the name of proper accountability. I only hope we don't concentrate on who is going to replace Olmert and Peretz, but rather on how the lessons [of the war] are implemented." Gilo, who lives in the Upper Galilee, said he did not see any improvement in meeting the home front's needs, such as bomb shelters. Col. (res.) Yoav Dayagi, a Rosh Ha'ayin resident who testified before the Winograd committee about what he called the media's inappropriate conduct during the war, praised the panel's work "despite the fact that it is not a [full-blown] state commission of inquiry." "I think we have to act in the spirit of the committee's findings. This government has to go home," he said, predicting that Olmert would be out of office within a year. Ariella Miller, one of the founders of the Accountability Forum, a protest movement that called on Olmert, Peretz and then-chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz to resign, said Monday that the Winograd Report did not reach any conclusions different from those already made by the public. "We can't let them run the next war because obviously they didn't learn the proper lessons even when they had the chance to do so," said Miller, who protested in front of the Prime Minister's Office Monday evening. Eliphaz Baeloha, a bereaved father whose son, Nadav, was killed in the Second Lebanon War, went on a hunger strike a month ago in front of the Prime Minister's Office and again called on Olmert to resign on Monday. "Olmert and Peretz failed and we all saw it during the war's first days," Baeloha said. "The committee clearly said that Olmert didn't learn from his mistakes, so why should we assume he will learn any lessons in the future. The entire cabinet, which sat quietly during the war - even ministers who have defense expertise and abilities - has to go home and is not fit to lead the people of Israel. "I spoke to the prime minister in the past and unfortunately, I don't think he will resign, but the public has to show him and the rest of the ministers the way out before the final Winograd Report is released [this summer]," Baeloha said. "We educate our sons and daughters that they have to protect and love our country. Our children, the soldiers, have to believe that leaders who send them into battle will take responsibility for them. How can we send them to the next war when we know that our leaders are mostly concerned with how to stay in power?" Roye Ron, chairman of the Baltam movement for supporting reservists, said in response to the report, "The prime minister and the defense minister will have to establish a salaried army since they are burying the reserve forces with their own two hands by not properly rewarding and not properly training the reservists." Attorney Eliad Shraga, chairman of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, criticized the Winograd Committee members for not issuing personal conclusions regarding Olmert and Peretz, and called on both to resign.