The interim findings of the Winograd Committee have not changed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's mind about the wisdom of launching a war against Hizbullah last summer. He told a special cabinet meeting Wednesday that had he known then what he knows now, he still would have launched a military campaign following the kidnapping of soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Olmert did not say, however, whether he would have waged the war in the same manner. The government, at the meeting convened to discuss how to implement the Winograd interim report's recommendations, decided unanimously to adopt the principles of the report and to establish a team to implement the findings. The steering committee will be headed by former chief of General Staff and government minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, and will include representatives from the Prime Minister's Office, the Foreign Ministry, the IDF, the National Security Council and outside professionals. The Winograd Committee called for a number of urgent "structural and institutional recommendations," including:
"The improvement of the quality of discussions and decision making within the government through strengthening and deepening staff work; strict enforcement of the prohibition of leaks; improving the knowledge base of all members of the government on core issues of Israel's challenges, and orderly procedures for presentation of issues for discussion and resolution.
"Full incorporation of the Foreign Ministry in security decisions with political and diplomatic aspects.
"Substantial improvement in the functioning of the National Security Council, the establishment of a national assessment team, and creating a center for crises management in the Prime Minister's Office." The job of the steering committee will be to formulate a "detailed plan to implement the recommendations."
The government also decided to establish a ministerial committee, headed by Olmert and including six other ministers, to oversee implementation of the recommendations.
After suffering two dreadful days following the publication of the harshly critical report, Olmert heard some words of support from his cabinet.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter assured Olmert that he was not planning a "putsch" against him.
Olmert also received warm words of support from Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon (Labor), who said as a resident of the North who knows the security situation there, "what was done needed to be done."
Referring to calls for Olmert to resign, Simhon said, "Beheadings do not solve the problems now."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who later in the day called on Olmert to step down, did not make a similar remark at the cabinet meeting. Instead she said the recommendations for greater involvement of the Foreign Ministry in the decision-making process should be implemented immediately.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz - who, along with Livni and Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit, is widely viewed as likely to challenge for the Kadima leadership - did not call on Olmert to resign, but rather to form a national unity government.
The most critical comments in the meeting were made by Education Minister Yuli Tamir, who said Israel needed to revise its conception that military action solves problems. She said historically Israel's military activities had not achieved their aims, and peace with Egypt and Jordan came about not through military action, but rather the signing of peace agreements.
Mofaz sharply disagreed, saying Operation Defensive Shield and the war Israel has waged against Palestinian terrorism since 2002 had achieved the aim of dramatically reducing terrorism.
The consensus among the ministers was that the "easy" thing to do in light of the widespread public criticism would be to resign, but "then the Winograd report will be pushed into the corner," cabinet secretary Yisrael Maimon said at a press briefing after the cabinet meeting. "Many past reports are collecting dust, and the best body now to correct the situation is the present government."
He said the cabinet meeting was held in a "professional atmosphere," and that there "was not one word of politics regarding the speculation and folklore about the intention of the foreign minister or defense minister to resign."
Maimon said Olmert used humor to break the tension with Livni, and that after he made two mentions of her in comments to the cabinet - and Livni pointed out that he had complimented her twice - he said, in reference to his exhausted public appearance Tuesday, "There are those who will say that I said this because I am tired."