Compounding the failures

The nation desperately needs new leadership, so that the first steps on the long road to recovery can be taken.

Olmert worried 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Olmert worried 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened the cabinet yesterday to appoint a special commission, headed by former IDF chief of General Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, to study and implement the Winograd Report's recommendations. "This government was responsible for carrying out the failures, and it is also responsible for fixing them," Olmert told the cabinet. "It is clear that the report points to serious failures in the functioning of the government and myself at its head." But, he added, "the Winograd panel stressed that the most important thing is to look towards the future." It is certainly true, after such a devastating report, documenting failures starting at the mid-levels of the IDF, going through the high command, and beyond to the top political echelons, that the most urgent order of the day is to start fixing these problems and improve military and political functioning in the future. But Olmert's claim that he will now "adopt the main points of the Winograd Report" is self-contradictory. It violates the committee's implicit sine qua non: that the current leadership step aside. Some have faulted the committee for not being more explicit, that is, for drawing only "personal conclusions" and not "personal recommendations." In its summary, the committee explains that it saw its main task as presenting recommendations "before the public and decision makers so that they can take action." "A public commission," the Winograd summary continued, "should not - in most cases - replace the usual political decision-making processes and determine who should serve as a minister or senior military commander." The committee then added this critical caveat: "However, we will reconsider this matter toward our Final Report in view of the depiction of the war as a whole." The committee deserves some recognition for having the humility and respect for democratic procedures to avoid claiming the right to fire the nation's elected leadership. Yet its language, however diplomatic, is difficult to misunderstand. The committee's unadorned and relentless criticisms of the government's actions leave no confusion as to its views: that the current leadership is unfit to govern. Its final report, expected this summer, will likely be even more critical, and, it can be presumed, will not shy away from explicitly recommending that Olmert resign. The initial report, though, is already so scathing that it renders such "personal recommendations" somewhat redundant. Even if the committee had been more explicit, it is hard to imagine a more devastating analysis preceding this conclusion. If there is something puzzling about the committee's stance, it is its seeming faith that the same leaders it finds so lacking in a basic sense of responsibility would have sufficient integrity to draw their own conclusions and step down. This faith now seems to have been, perhaps predictably, misplaced. We agree with Olmert that the Winograd Report must be implemented. We do not see, however, how the leadership responsible for such failures can carry out the vital systemic military and political overhaul that is mandated. In this context, Foreign Minister's Tzipi Livni's stance is notably mystifying and discrediting. Her public call on Olmert to resign cannot be squared with her decision to stay in the government in order to fix its failings. If the government is fixable with Olmert at its helm, then why should he resign? Our suspended president has been summoned to a hearing with the attorney-general on two counts of rape. The finance minister has suspended himself on suspicions of bribery. The prime and defense ministers are clinging to power despite the complete loss of the public's confidence. The premier's hand-picked commission has exposed leadership failures as broad as they are deep, with more to come. The nation now desperately needs new leadership, so that the first steps on the long road to recovery can be taken.