The Winograd Committee / The Mountain Will Turn Into a Null-hill

For several days last week, Haaretz dedicated its lead headlines to Ehud Olmert's testimony before the Winograd Committee. Olmert may be perceived as a failed prime minister, but as a lawyer he is considered shrewd and rather witty. And yet, his own testimony has served as damning evidence against him.

According to what's been published, he has testified to the committee that a decision to retaliate with force, if there was an abduction of soldiers, had been made as early as March 2006. Olmert tried to refute the impression that his decision to go to war on July 12 was a hasty one, and ended up cementing the perception of the second Lebanon war as a 30-day long exercise in improvisation and amateurism. If this was a war planned months in advance, just imagine what a sudden war would look like. Mercy.

Olmert boasts of holding more "discussions, conferences and assessments" than his predecessors. He relies on the "target bank" prepared under Ariel Sharon's instruction as indicative that Sharon would have reacted similarly. It's time to inform Olmert that the cabinets of power are lined with military blueprints that could stretch from here to Indochina, gathering dust.

Wars aren't launch-and-forget affairs; there are no tailor-made wars ready to be set off at the push of a button. The decision to go to war is always dictated by the circumstances of the moment. Had his predecessors wanted to do as he, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and then-chief-of-staff Dan Halutz did, they had had plenty of occasions to do so. They didn't, he did - and the manner in which his decision was carried out was incompetent and miserable.

Olmert and his fellow decision-makers didn't even know what it was they were deciding on until three weeks into the hostilities. After all, the government never decided to go to war, and the war caught the government off-guard, whatever the preparations were. To this day, that bastard of a war has not been christened with so much as a name of its own.

And that should be evidence, for no war had been declared, and the economy was not put on an emergency footing. Another piece of evidence is that no one other than the prime minister knew of the preparations for war. Not only the army but also the home front was thrown off balance - despite all the deliberations, consultations and discussions.

The reserves were not called up in advance, nor were forces pre-positioned near the front, and the shelters were not prepared. The only ones who were prepared had been Olmert and Peretz, who both set out to prove that their little fingers were thicker than the waists of their respective forefathers: former Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak.

And now a whole country - or is it just the media? - is holding its breath in anticipation of the Winograd findings, as though the report could sever the Gordian knot that ties both Peretz and Olmert to their chairs. As though it could take them both off their resuscitators, thereby putting not only them out of their misery, but us as well. As though all doubts - if any remain - could be cleared up by the committee.

I've got news for you, which could help curb the suspense: the Winograd mountain will amount to even a molehill, but into a null-hill. Rodents and their kind, you see, are at least in the habit of abandoning sinking ships.

Yedioth Ahronot published over the weekend a survey conducted by Mina Tzemach, whose findings the newspaper labeled "shocking." Out of a long list of known personalities, Olmert received the lowest marks. Only two percent of the population believe in him - a figure that also constitutes the standard statistical deviation in the survey.

Does that mean that Olmert's approval rating is now below zero? No Sunni-Ishmaelite caravan from Saudi Arabia could ever rescue him from that dark a pit. And still, he presides as prime minister through an anomaly unparallel in the history of modern democracy.

Let us not delude ourselves: Olmert and Peretz are not likely to resign voluntarily, even after the publication of the Winograd Report. It all depends on the Israeli public, as it was before there was a Winograd Committee and as it will be after it. It is doubtful that a public that did not depose its leaders immediately after the war would do so any time soon, be the conclusions of the report grave as they may, or may indeed may not, be.

Too many citizens have despaired of the possibility of bringing about change. Too many have given up waiting for Moses and the 10 Commandments. They have taken, rather, to worshiping the golden calf, as this past week's Torah reading, Parashat Ki-Tissa, recounts. Or maybe they have been paralyzed by the fear of Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, which would actually be understandable enough.