Dov Weissglas, Olmert's honor student
Former chief of staff Dan Halutz did not think the barrages of Katyusha rockets peppering northern Israel needed to be taken seriously. He forced his will on the government, suggested no alternatives and silenced opponents from within army circles. Thus said Channel 10 and the press in previews of the Winograd Committee's interim report on the government's (mal)functioning during the Second Lebanon War.
A report by an external auditor appointed to investigate the flaws in how Bezeq approved executive pay paints a picture of a domineering CEO (Jacob Gelbard) who treated the company like his own fiefdom, with nobody even examining his actions, let alone saying anything. The auditor, Yoram Danziger ascribed the blame on Gelbard as the power at the company for its problems. Thus said the press on Danziger's report.
Danziger published his findings at the end of last week. The report basically put Gelbard's head on the guillotine, because of the grave flaws in the company's management under his domineering rule.
The Winograd Commission published its interim report yesterday, but its main points were leaked at the end of last week, just as Danziger's report arrived. Winograd saved its most biting criticism for the chief of staff, Halutz, who has already paid with his head.
Two reports. Two very different subjects. Published together. And lo! They reached much the same conclusion.
"According to reports, Halutz suffered from excess charisma, preventing the government from obtaining alternative plans," said the press reports on Winograd.
"The directors' flaccidity, and bizarre lack of interest in doing their jobs properly, enabled Gelbard to act with almost no checks or balances, while executives beneath him - out of respect, fear, laziness or stupidity - impaired the company's management," said the press of Danziger's report.
Back to Winograd: "The draft report claimed Olmert's judgment was unwise and rash; he didn't manage, he followed the army's lead.... Olmert did not ask the army for alternatives to the plans it presented and did not ask the right questions."
And at Bezeq: "The auditor found that even after the board learned of flaws in the approval of executives' employment terms, and that it had to reapprove the employment terms from scratch, it did not do so" - meaning, it did not restart the process and approve them again.
Danziger's conclusion was that the chief executive, Jacob Gelbard, bore the main responsibility for the flaws, and should quit. And what about the board of directors, which is supposed to oversee the company's management and set policy? What about its chairman, Dov Weissglas?
"Weissglas managed to convince the Bezeq auditor that he should not bear personal responsibility for the failures of the board," the press wrote. "It is doubtful whether Weissglas will be going home, for a simple reason: touching him personally would expose directors to lawsuits and criticism. Weissglas will serve as a wall protecting them."
Danziger concluded in his report that it was doubtful whether any of the directors would pay a price for the flaws, unless the Israel Securities Authority (ISA) investigates.
The ISA supervises publicly traded companies, but the state has no watchdog to supervise its actions. Israel does not even have a state commission of inquiry to recommend individual sanctions. All it has is an inquiry that settles for "arousing public debate." In Israel, the chief of staff may be required to go home, and justly so. But what about the government's equivalent of a chair, the person who designs its strategy, including whether or not to go to war, and how - namely, the prime minister?
"Olmert's motivation to survive is very high," said sources near the prime minister this week. "If the prime minister has to go, then everybody should go. The prime minister will claim that the ministers unanimously supported a strong military response and that they bear the same responsibility that he does."
From this, we are to understand that Olmert should not be held personally responsible for the failures of the Second Lebanon War, just as Weissglas should not be held personally responsible for the flaws in Bezeq's management.
The ministers are obviously not going to draw personal conclusions, and therefore their leader, the first among equals, does not mean to draw any either. And you can rely on Israel's Knesset not to force the prime minister or government to draw anything like a conclusion, because then it would itself have to pay the price: It would have to disband and face the electorate again.
Therefore, expect no conclusions whatsoever from one of the unhappiest military endeavors in Israeli history. Knesset members, ministers and the prime minister will continue to glue themselves to their chairs and teach the people of Israel that accountability is a foreign word. However dreadful the management, the manager is here to stay. And as the report on Bezeq shows, Israeli society is faithfully following the example set by its government. Business leaders are the first to follow the prime minister's lead on how to shrug off responsibility and avoid paying the price of failure - and while they are about it, how to continue demanding multi-million dollar stock options. What a great country.
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