Home / International / Opinion Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Olmert set to survive Lebanon War report
Adjust font size:

Though Wednesday's release of the Winograd Committee's final report on the Lebanon War in 2006 had ignited a political struggle in Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was set to weather this challenge, analysts said.

It was the most difficult obstacle that threatened Olmert's position since he was elected in April 2006, as Israeli opposition parties were using the report to force Olmert to resign or to dismiss the parliament and to call for early elections.

Harsh report

Eliyahu Winograd, chairman of Israel's Winograd Committee probing into the performance of the government and the army during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, said on Wednesday that "major faults were found on all levels during the war."

In the final report, the committee said it found "severe failures and faults in the decision making process, both in the political and military echelon."

On July 12 of 2006, following the abduction of two Israeli soldiers by the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, Israel staged a 34-day-long war with Hezbollah guerillas.

The war ended on August 14 of 2006 under a UN-brokered resolution. More than 110 Israeli soldiers and over 1,200 Lebanese were killed in the conflict.

Terming the war a "great and serious missed opportunity", Winograd told a press conference in Jerusalem that "Israel embarked on a prolonged war that it initiated, which ended without a clear Israeli victory from a military standpoint".

He assailed the final and large-scale ground operation, saying it "did not achieve any military objectives nor did it fulfill its potential."

"Hezbollah rocket fire on the Israeli home front continued throughout the war, and the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) failed to provide an operational solution," Winograd added.

Winograd said the committee's decision of not assigning personal responsibility to any of those mentioned didn't mean they were exonerated of such responsibility.

However, the report stopped short of blaming Olmert personally for what many Israelis saw as a stunning fiasco in the month-long war with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

Instead, Winograd said that Olmert had acted in what he thought was "Israel's best interest."

Barak's ambiguous stance

Winograd's report had renewed the dispute over Olmert's capability to keep his position as Israeli opposition parties were using the report for their political gains.

Right after Winograd's report, Israelis turned their eyes on Barak, who is also leader of the influential Labor party, which is part of Olmert's coalition government.

One year ago, Barak had promised to pull his party out of the coalition cabinet after the publication of the final report.

But so far, Barak has not made any public comment on Winograd's report or his political plan, nor have those cabinet ministers from the Labor party.

The Labor party leader seemed to prefer to wait and see what impact this report has on public opinion in general and on his political supporters in particular.

According to sources close to Barak, he described the report as "mellow" which could be interpreted as an excuse to remain in Olmert's coalition, which was opposed by some Labor members.

Labor member of Knesset (parliament), Shelly Yechimovich, insisted that the Labor party must break the political partnership with Olmert's Kadima party.

"The Labor party cannot give legitimacy to Olmert due to his failures during the war," she told Xinhua.

Another Labor lawmaker Eitan Kabel, who is also Secretary General of the Labor party, echoed Yechimovich's sentiment, by saying that he believed there will be national elections in 2008 unless Kadima should have someone else to replace Olmert.

Besides the Labor party, some opposition parties were urging Barak's to quit the coalition government and calling on Olmert to leave immediately.

Former Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom, also member of the opposition Likud party, urged Barak to keep his words to his supporters.

Shalom argued that the harsh report required Barak to fulfill his vow and quit the coalition, saying that Barak's Labor party therefore must support the bill he submitted, which called for early elections.

Zahava Gal-On, chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party and member of Knesset (Parliament), told Xinhua that Olmert should resign immediately.

"The political system must form an alternative government and send Olmert home," she said.

No major political change at this moment

"I do not foresee any political change because of the Winograd Report," Professor Asher Arian, senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, said in an interview with Xinhua.

"The real important issue in the future is the negotiations with the Palestinians and Olmert seems to have a solid coalition for that purpose," Arian said.

Arian noted that Israelis could anticipate reactions of Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to the report by listening to what they have said just a couple of days ago before the report's release.

Olmert has repeatedly said he would not step down after the findings were released.

"I have been asked many times what would happen this week," Olmert told his faction members during a Kadima meeting on Monday, "You can be calm, we have many more years to govern."

Also on Monday, Barak said, "I can promise you one thing, and that is that I will make a decision according to what is best for the State of Israel."

Barak's aid, however, had said that the defense minister didn't intend to respond to the report at this time.

Professor Arian said he was confident that Barak would not quit the coalition at this moment. "I do not think that Barak will do so in the short future. He might consider it in a better timing," he said.

Winograd's statement was not so bad for Olmert, said Arian, adding that the report would have no significance to Israel's political system.

"It is an important case study for those who wish to study politics but not for the politicians themselves. One has to remember that investigation committees do not solve problems because they deal with political and moral issues," Arian concluded.

(Xinhua News Agency February 2, 2008)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read
Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>
- Israeli Army Chief Tenders Resignation
- Calls Grow for Olmert to Resign
- Lebanon's Post-War Rebuilding Far from Complete
- Israeli PM stays on job after release of war report
Most Viewed >>
> Korean Nuclear Talks
> Reconstruction of Iraq
> Middle East Peace Process
> Iran Nuclear Issue
> 6th SCO Summit Meeting
- China Development Gateway
- Foreign Ministry
- Network of East Asian Think-Tanks
- China-EU Association
- China-Africa Business Council
- China Foreign Affairs University
- University of International Relations
- Institute of World Economics & Politics
- Institute of Russian, East European & Central Asian Studies
- Institute of West Asian & African Studies
- Institute of Latin American Studies
- Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies
- Institute of Japanese Studies