Today at 5 PM local time the five person Winograd Committee — which was hand-picked by Olmert after the uproar following the war, as a compromise to demands for a state inquiry, and was not charged independently — delivered its final report to Olmert and Barak. An hour later they came to Convention Hall (Binyanei Hauma) and retired Justice Eliyahu Winograd, who chaired the Committee, read the report for assembled journalists.
In the briefest of summaries:
We didn’t win the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, which is regrettable because we missed an important opportunity and should have won. There were "serious failures and shortcomings in the decision-making processes and staff-work in the political and the military echelons and their interface."
A great deal of blame was placed on the military. But the political echelon, which projected weakness, was also at fault. It was highly unfortunate that the rocket fire from the north was not stopped, as we had military superiority. The ground offensive that was launched very shortly before the end of the war (the one in which 33 soldiers were lost) did not improve our military position. But the committee is convinced that the prime minister acted in what he thought was Israel’s best interests.
The fact that no fingers were pointed in the report (by design) does not mean, says the report, that there are not individuals who are responsible.
The failures went beyond the conduct of the war itself and involved a lack of long term strategy.
Our failure to win conclusively had great impact on us and on our neighbors, and our allies.
Concluded Winograd, Israel "cannot survive in this region unless the people within it and outside it believe that it has political leadership, military capabilities and social strength that will enable it to prevent [its neighbors] from realizing their goals – even by force.
"Attempts to reach peace or an agreement must come from a place of military might and of ability and willingness to fight for the country, its values and residents. This has deep ramifications, well beyond the Second Lebanon War."
There is no clear cut direction from this , and it’s too soon to tell what the fallout will be. Members of Kadima are claiming vindication, members of right wing parties say that just as former defense minister Amir Peretz and former chief of staff Dan Halutz accepted responsibility for the failings of the war and resigned, so must Olmert now. Olmert is saying, quite clearly, that he will not. A great deal, I believe, will depend on how the electorate responds.
My own immediate response is this. Whatever Winograd said about Olmert’s sincerity of intent, and the responsibility of the military, this is what leaps out at me:
One of the things Winograd faults the political echelon with is projecting weakness. This absolutely cannot be minimized. See the concluding statement by Winograd that says Israel at all levels must convey strength to survive — it’s clear the Committee also believes this is critical.
This, then, must be taken to heart with regard to how Olmert conducts the affairs of government now. He is doing us irreparable harm by making statements about he’ll do whatever he has to reach an agreement with Abbas, by conducting himself in a way that allows citizens of Sderot to remain at risk, and by refusing to order that necessary ground operation into Gaza. He is projecting weakness. This is lethal for us and cannot continue. He must go.
Undoubtedly, I will return to this subject many times. But I would like to leave it now.
Yesterday I spoke about a phony photo of Palestinians in Gaza working by candlelight when it was really daytime. I was unable to reproduce the photo I had. And so now I would like to thank Doris Montrose, who sent me a link to a blog that provides several such pictures and discussion. Some of these blogs are great for exposing the frauds.
According to YNet there has been good progress in communication between Egyptian security personnel and Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s political security department. Reportedly, there are 25,000 to 30,000 Palestinians remaining in Egypt, and they are supposed to be pushed back to Gaza by next week.
Meanwhile Israel National News has reported that Gazans have spent $250 million in Egypt, and by the weekend are expected to have made purchases totaling $480 million. Since there were 700,000 Arabs from Gaza in Egypt, that comes to an average of almost $670 person, if these figures are correct. $670 represents a whole lot more for Gazans than for Israelis or Americans. It’s big money. So, the question is where this came from if they’re so poverty stricken.
What is more, according to this report , a bulk of the money was spent on building materials. This is NOT what people buy when they are starving.
The High Court has made a significant ruling . I wrote a couple of days ago about a petition to the court by left wing human rights organizations that demanded that the crossings to Gaza be opened. The court had issued a preliminary ruling that humanitarian aid had to go through. But now we have the complete ruling:
Israel has had no effective control over the Gaza Strip since September 2005, and that therefore "it is not obligated to care for the welfare of the Strip’s residents or allow the transfer of unlimited amounts of goods and commodities." However, Israel is obliged "to allow the supply of essential humanitarian aid."
What is more, Israel’s actions are in conjunction with local and international law: "In times of war, the civilian population is… the first and most prominent victim of the fighting, even when efforts to reduce the harm done to it are carried out."
Gaza, said the court, was controlled by a murderous terrorist organization, which was tirelessly working against the State of Israel and its citizens, while breaking every possible rule of international law in its violent actions, "which indiscriminately target civilians – men, women and children."
Now Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum , is proposing that Egypt absorb Gaza (which it controlled from 1949 to 1967). Gazans, says Pipes, speak a colloquial Arabic that is identical to the Arabic of the Sinai, and have more family ties in Egypt than in the West Bank. He cites journalist David Warren, who said calling Gazans "Palestinians" is less accurate than politically correct.
This, suggests Pipes, would end the rocket fire and expose the superficiality of Palestinian nationalism.
"It’s hard to divine what benefit American taxpayers have received for the US$65-billion they have lavished on Egypt since 1948; but Egypt’s absorbing Gaza might justify their continuing to shell out US$1.8-billion a year."
Sounds good to me.
The UN Security Council has given up efforts to formulate a statement condemning Israel for the situation in Gaza. Libya, which is chairing the Council this month, decided to give up its call for condemnation of Israel, following a battle waged by Israel, backed by the US.
I wrote the other day about concerns that the multinational force of 1,800 in Sinai would be threat
ened by the Gazans. But apparently that never happened, they have not withdrawn, and they are proceeding normally.
Victor Davis Hanson writes some marvelously insightful pieces . I would like to close here by recommending an article of his, "A Modest Proposal for Middle East Peace." Quite simply, he puts what’s going on here into an international perspective.