Winograd report to be released Jan. 30

Final conclusions on management of Second Lebanon War to cap off 17 months of investigation.

winograd 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
winograd 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Winograd Committee's announcement Sunday that its final report on the Second Lebanon War would be released on January 30 ignited a series of political plots to overthrow Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Channel 1 quoted a member of the committee who said the report would be "fire and brimstone." The television report also revealed that Kadima and Labor officials had begun studying succession laws to determine under what circumstances Olmert's deputy prime minister, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, could succeed him without forcing an election. Opposition leader Bin-yamin Netanyahu crafted a plan with his faction chairman, MK Gideon Sa'ar, to advance the next election from November 2010 to November 11 of this year, the same day that Israelis will go to the polls to vote in municipal races. Sources close to Netanyahu said they believed Labor chairman Ehud Barak might support the move and thereby fulfill his campaign promise to work to set an election date if Olmert did not step down by the date of Winograd's publication. Sa'ar said the level of the report's severity would determine his efforts' chances of success. He said that holding the Knesset and municipal elections together would increase voter turnout, save the state money and help the large parties succeed in the municipal races at the expense of billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak's upstart Social Justice Party. In October 2006, soon after the Second Lebanon War, Likud MK Silvan Shalom proposed a bill to disperse the Knesset, which he said he would bring to a vote immediately after the release of the final Winograd Report. He said he had already spoken to MKs from every faction about the bill. "The bill will test the responsibility of Ehud Barak and [Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor] Lieberman, and I hope they pass the test," Shalom said. Lieberman issued new threats on Sunday, warning Olmert that he would remove Israel Beiteinu from the coalition if negotiations began on the core issues of the conflict with the Palestinians. "We decided on our red lines ahead of Annapolis," Lieberman told Israel Radio. "One of them was that if there were negotiations on the core issues of the conflict, it would require us to leave the government immediately, and we intend to stand by that commitment. I said this to the prime minister, and our party's view is clear." Sources in Israel Beiteinu said it was important to Lieberman to send Olmert a warning ahead of US President George W. Bush's visit, that he could not take his party's presence in the coalition for granted ahead of Winograd's release. Olmert's associates responded that Lieberman was aware that the negotiations with the Palestinians would touch on every key issue. Cabinet secretary Ovad Yehezkel told Army Radio that Olmert intended to work hard ahead of the Winograd Report's release as if the report did not exist and that he had no doubt that he would continue to do the same afterward as well. The report will be presented to Olmert and Barak at 5 p.m. on January 30. There will also be a press conference in which the report will be made available to the public, a committee spokesman said. The Winograd Committee has already made clear that the report will not contain recommendations or conclusions that could harm people who held positions of responsibility during or before the war, and that even the facts included in the report will not be harmful to individuals. Committee members have said it will be up to the public to draw conclusions from the report and to act accordingly. Olmert has already said he will not resign in the wake of the report. From a legal point of view, he will not have to if the committee does not expressly call for him to step down. The panel was controversial from the moment it was established. Protesters led by reservists who had fought in the war, parents of soldiers who were killed in the fighting, and watchdog organizations had demanded that Olmert ask the Supreme Court president to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry. Instead, on October 18, 2006, the prime minister appointed a committee of examination whose members he personally selected. Immediately after the committee's establishment, the Movement for Quality Government and Ometz petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the government to establish a judicial commission of inquiry. However, the court rejected the petition. Two more petitions called on the committee to publish the testimonies of the witnesses who appeared before it. The court ordered the panel to do so as quickly as possible. So far, however, only about one-third of the testimonies have been released. On April 30, 2007, the committee issued an interim report covering the events leading up to the war and the first days of the fighting. "We place most of the responsibility for the failures in the Second Lebanon War on the prime minister, the defense minister and the former chief of staff," the committee wrote. However, it did not recommend that Olmert or then-defense minister Amir Peretz resign. The next controversy - the decision not to publish personal conclusions or recommendations - elicited two more High Court petitions and more public criticism. However, the committee warned that the procedures for issuing cautionary letters and giving their recipients time to defend themselves would postpone publication of the report by a year. Instead, they said, the report would include recommendations and conclusions regarding the functioning of various government and military systems and mechanisms during the war.•