The bottom line of the complete Winograd report is that there is no bottom line. More precisely, there are plenty of bottom lines and everyone is welcome to pick his own. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert comes out of this report neither honored nor disgraced. His rivals will find countless reasons in the report to demand his ouster just as they did beforehand: He failed in managing the war, in coordinating, planning and laying the groundwork. His supporters will find quite a few justifications for demanding that he remain, repair and atone for his sins - just as they did earlier.
In another political culture, anyone else would have resigned long ago, after the partial report, but not Olmert. He views this report as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. And besides, he has grown accustomed to being unpopular.
But the report did have one bottom line, regarding the failed ground offensive at the end of the war, and it provided Olmert with a rare moment of bliss. There was no malice there, the commission ruled, there was no "corrupt spin," as former chief of staff Moshe (Bogey) Ya'alon said and as the reservists shouted in recent weeks. On this sore point, this infected wound that troubled an entire country, Olmert was cleared and exonerated.
You can say many things about him, but you must also say this: In this story he was the victim of character assassination, alleging he sent soldiers to their deaths for "a victory snapshot."
Along came Winograd and in his dry, judicial style tossed that deception on the ash heap of history. Ironically, the brutal and shameless campaign waged against Olmert concerning the "spin" of the war's final 60 hours boomeranged last night and hit those who initiated and led it. Their orchestrated and well-timed protest will not last.
Anyone who expected a simplistic, categorical report was surprised to find that life is complex.
The failure, or missed opportunity in the summer of 2006, as indicated by the report, stemmed from a wretched combination of circumstances practically unprecedented in Israel's history: a new and inexperienced prime minister, a new and inexperienced defense minister, a chief of staff who knew nothing about ground warfare, and an army that was neither trained nor properly prepared during the six years before the war.
Our embarrassed political establishment will have to deal with the report in the days ahead. As far as Kadima goes, it may be said with assurance that Olmert has survived the Second Winograd Crisis.
The report's criticism of "the political echelon" is aimed at everyone, headed by Olmert. But Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni doesn't get off scott free either, and the one who took a hard blow yesterday is the pretender to the throne, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz.
Winograd came along and determined that a substantial share of the war's defects were prompted by the army's preparations during the six-year run-up to the Second Lebanon War.
There are two names hiding behind this headline: former chief of staff and defense minister Shaul Mofaz, and the designated defense minister in a Benjamin Netanyahu cabinet - former chief of staff Bogey Ya'alon. Ya'alon, who sees "spin" everywhere and who with boundless self-righteousness preaches to others about bearing responsibility, will now have to contend publicly with the commission's ruling about him.
Olmert's political quandary remains in the hands of the defense minister and Labor Party leader. Ehud Barak described the report last night as "light gray." This does not make matters easier for him; on the contrary.
A blacker-than-black report would have saved him the need to deliberate, and he would have resigned. A report white as the driven snow would have allowed him to smooth matters over, and remain. The actual report poses a dilemma for him: how to stay in the government and still keep his word.
Barak's silence last night attested to his plight. He will come under growing pressure in the days to come from both sides: from the reservists, the bereaved families and Laborites who want the party to quit the coalition, who will demand that he do the deed. He will also come under pressure from everybody else, who want him to do nothing.
He may opt to do as follows: inform the public that he has decided to stay in his post for another six months, perhaps a bit longer, to rehabilitate the army, and at the end of that period strive to bring forward the general election.
That is a possible outlet, with which both Olmert and Barak can live, because it serves their joint objective: general elections in early 2009.
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