Was war essential? Report doesn't say so
In the introduction to their final report, Eliyahu Winograd and his fellow committee members quote from the poem "When" by Rachel, including its preface: "Only the dead don't die." Rachel dedicated these words to a person she identified only by three initials: Y.S.K.
This was the writer and poet Yaakov Shalom Katznelbogen. Regardless as to whether or not the committee checked his identity, there is no more fitting person to be at the top of such a report, because Katznelbogen was a deserter: He ran away from the Russian army.
In the verbal tsunami on television and radio preceding the report's publication, it was repeatedly said that not many people will read the full report, and that everything will rise and fall on the analysis of the 10 pages that Winograd will read out at the press conference.
The public relying on today's flood of analysis should also remember that none of these commentators have closely read the whole report. The most important thing one can write this morning is that the report is on the Internet and can be read in full.
The central question that faced the committee was why Israel did not win the war. Like many Israelis, the committee thinks this was a missed opportunity. But the main question that should have been the focus of discussion was whether this war was essential. If it was not essential, then it was superfluous. There are no other types of war.
The committee did not engage much with this question. Somewhere near the end of the report, however, there is a refreshing thought: "The claim that it was necessary to do almost everything to return the kidnapped soldiers - despite its emotional power - does not stand up to scrutiny," because it creates unnecessary risks for the security of both soldiers and civilians. In other words, even if the government thought the two soldiers were still alive, the decision to go to war was not justified.
The committee avoided this question. The decision to go to war was "pivotal," it wrote. But was it essential? The committee ducks the issue. It was a "fateful" decision. But was it justified? The committee produces the following convoluted sentence: "We do not determine, and have not determined, that the decision to go to war following the kidnapping was unjustified." This is not good enough.
The committee also did not contribute any useful understanding to the second question that should have been at the focus of the discussions following the war: To what extent have 40 years of occupation affected the ability of the Israel Defense Forces to protect the country? Or, in other words, does the IDF train its soldiers to fight - or does it mainly teach them to oppress the Palestinian population?
It seems that the committee saw this question as only an operational detail. In this context, it adopted the army's concept of "ongoing security tasks."
The advantage the committee members have, as Winograd himself said, is that they know more about the war than most other Israelis; but in their opinion, their judgment is not worthier than those of others. The value of this report will therefore be measured in terms of the extent to which it reveals information that has not already appeared in investigative reports and books written by journalists. Here's something to do for the weekend.