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In its interim report the Winograd Committee extensively addressed the Foreign Ministry's role and the fact that from the first few days of the war it prepared the diplomatic ground that led to Security Council Resolution 1701 that brought a cease-fire.

The report also warned against what it described as the army's excessively dominant role in the decision-making process in political-defense issues and stressed that the Foreign Ministry was not sufficiently included in the staff work during the war.

"During the past 18 months we were not invited to a single meeting held in the intelligence branch, nor during the war," a senior Foreign Ministry source said yesterday. "No one asked us whether to bomb the Dahiya [a Hezbollah neighborhood in Beirut] or not. Each organization worked separately."

The directors meeting at the Foreign Ministry yesterday dealt entirely with the Winograd report. The department heads agreed that now is the time to "use" the committee's conclusions to strengthen the role of the ministry vis-a-vis the IDF, the Prime Minister's Office and the Defense Ministry.

One of the proposals called for a push to get a government decision that will enlarge the ministry's budget so it can broaden its public relations campaigns. Another proposal was to seek a government decision that would require ministry officials to participate in meetings on political-defense matters with the IDF.

The director general of the ministry, Aharon Abramovitch, will present Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the prime minister with a formal proposal with the recommendations of the department heads.

The rise in the standing of the Foreign Ministry began even before the war. Foreign Minister Livni and Abramovitch recognized that they must improve their ability to operate vis-a-vis the National Security Council, the Defense Ministry and the IDF and develop a strong advisory body. At the crux of their effort was the strengthening of the Diplomatic Research Center - the main think tank of the Foreign Ministry.

The DRC was set up following the report of the Agranat Commission of Inquiry into the Yom Kippur War, in an effort to dilute the army's monopoly on intelligence gathering and to allow "intellectual pluralism."

In practice, during the three decades that have passed since the Agranat report, the DRC failed to become an organ of influence equal to Military Intelligence in affecting decision-making. The incident that changed this trend was the abduction of Gilad Shalit, which transformed the DRC into a critical resource for Livni. The Lebanon war only increased its importance.

Livni included officials from the DRC in all the diplomatic deliberations and was accompanied by its head, Nimrod Barkan, to meetings of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense.