With all due respect to Judge Winograd and his committee members, the conclusions being published in the committee's interim report - after months of hearing witnesses and working intensively - are the very conclusions that most of the Israeli public had reached by the end of the Second Lebanon War. Some people even reached these conclusions in the first days of the war.
The war was conducted in a deficient manner. The government did not take into consideration Hezbollah's expected response to the Israel Air Force's bombardment of Lebanon. For five weeks, it refused to understand that the Katyusha fire on northern Israel could not be quashed merely by aerial bombings, and that a ground operation was needed.
This simple truth was recently uttered by the new chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, in an appearance before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The political team conducting the war did not lack experience - among the seven decision makers were two former defense ministers, one of whom was once chief of staff. It would be rare to find this level of military experience in the cabinet for every security crisis. All that was missing, however, was wisdom and judgment.
How did Israel find itself in the hands of such a deficient political and military leadership at such a fateful time? This question should be examined to prevent such a situation from recurring.
Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, the first person to reach this position via the air force, was appointed after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz fired Major General Moshe Ya'alon, an act unprecedented in the state's history. It is not hard to guess the considerations behind this unreasonable step. Thus, circumstance put a man in charge of the IDF in wartime who had no experience with ground forces. But the core of this war should have been based on ground operations.
Olmert appointed Amir Peretz defense minister when he formed his coalition. The prime minister's recklessness was evident even then. The appointment of a clearly unsuitable individual to such an important position caught the eye of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Olmert's desire to keep the finance minister's post for his confidant, Abraham Hirchson, apparently preceded all considerations, and the state received two ministers unworthy of their posts.
Anyone who had hoped that Peretz would declare himself unqualified to be defense minister and renounce the heavy responsibility is unaware that most Israeli politicians lack modesty. Olmert can thank public relations whiz kids Reuven Adler and Eyal Arad for his being elected prime minister. For a party without institutions or content, Kadima's election campaign was expertly conducted, and many people bought its merchandise.
Now, after the Winograd Committee's interim report, it should be clear that the state should not be left in these hands, in view of the looming challenges and dangers. The argument that there is nothing better than this blundering team is irrational and unfounded. Only ministers and MKs clinging to their seats could use it.
It seems that the only thing that will replace this leadership is early elections. The counter argument that it is not desirable to hold elections too frequently is acceptable in normal times. But this is not a normal time. Obviously, it is better to hold early elections than to continue with this team.
Kadima's argument that we should wait for the Winograd Committee's final report before taking a step is ludicrous. The interim report's findings are sufficiently convincing. Waiting any longer could be dangerous.
Israel is now facing the risk of masses of ballistic missiles targeting its cities from Lebanon and Syria, and the threat of Iran's continuing nuclear armament. After the painful experience of the Second Lebanon War, we cannot trust the present leadership to prepare adequately for these dangers. It is time for a change at the top.
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