A senior Kadima member said last night that Ehud Olmert would sooner or later be asked by his party to step down as prime minister, in order to avoid "dragging the party down with him."
The source suggested that Olmert could be ousted after publication of the final Winograd report, which is due in the summer. According to the source, there is a potential majority - 15 of the party's 29 Knesset members - who would support Olmert's ouster.
For the time being, the prime minister's camp is adopting a strategy of spreading responsibility around for the Second Lebanon War, in an effort to dilute the anticipated criticism of Olmert in the interim report of the Winograd Committee, which is investigating the war. Those close to Olmert declared yesterday that "it is impossible to lay the blame on one person and assert that he is guilty of everything when all the ministers, all of Kadima and most of the Knesset backed him in going to war."
Sources close to the prime minister also said yesterday that none of the Kadima leaders will call for the immediate removal of Olmert from the party's leadership. The same sources said that he spoke with some senior Kadima people and made it clear to them that he has no intention of resigning and demanded that they give him their backing.
More specifically, none of the senior ministers who are considered to be Olmert's political rivals in the party, including Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, intends to take action against the prime minister - at least in the near future.
At 4 P.M. today the Winograd Committee will present Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz with a draft report of its investigation into last summer's war; about an hour later it will be released to the public at a special press conference.
The report is expected to be highly critical of the conduct of Olmert, Peretz and former chief of staff Dan Halutz.
Olmert will be criticized for the decision-making process during the first days of the war, for blindly following the army's plans, and for not demanding alternative plans to the ones presented to him. The prime minister will also be attacked for not specifying precise goals for the fighting.
The Winograd report will also blame Olmert for not properly evaluating the Israel Defense Forces' preparedness, and for not asking questions concerning this matter before deciding to embark on a war.
The defense minister will be criticized for taking on the defense portfolio in spite of having insufficient experience in this area, and also for failing to seek assistance from professionals in the defense establishment. He will also be blamed for not following an orderly process of decision making.
The most severe barbs will be directed at Dan Halutz. He will be blamed for leading the government to war without allowing the ministers the possibility of making a choice. Halutz is also expected to be criticized for preventing officers with dissenting opinions from expressing them to decision makers, and for not taking seriously the threat posed by the Katyushas and the damage they could wreak on northern communities.
General criticism will also be directed at the entire cabinet for accepting the military's plans without evaluating them in detail and without requesting alternatives.
The vast majority of the draft report will focus on the decision-making process that led to the war. The committee has limited itself in this report to analyzing the five first days of the war - from the Hezbollah attack and the abduction of the two reservists on July 12, 2006, to July 17 and the prime minister's speech before the Knesset plenum.
Most of the events of the war - the failed military operations, the diplomatic moves, the defense of the home front, the decision to carry out a massive ground offensive in the two final days, etc. - will not be discussed in the interim report being publicized today.
Similarly, with the exception of Halutz, there will be no severe criticism of senior individual officers in the report. It is possible, however, that Brigadier Gal Hirsch, the former commander of Division 91 (in whose area of control the abduction occured), will be blamed for his conduct prior to the kidnapping.
Another significant portion of the report will deal with the period between the IDF's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 and the outbreak of the war. During this period Israel was attacked on a number of occasions by Hezbollah, but prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, backed by senior IDF officers, adopted a policy of restraint and Israel's response was thus limited. The Winograd panel is expected to criticize the decision makers during this six years. The committee is also expected to issue a number of recommendations in its report.
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