Ministry Disputes PM's Claim of Divided UN Stance During War

Ministry document shows only slight variations in resolution drafts that Olmert used to authorize ground raid.

A Foreign Ministry document prepared shortly after the Second Lebanon War challenges Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's claim of major differences between the various versions of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 which brought an end to the fighting.

On the basis of this claim, Olmert and then Defense Minister Amir Peretz justified the final ground offensive in the war which claimed the lives of 33 soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces.

According to documents and testimony received by Haaretz, the final version of the resolution, before the offensive, was not "unacceptable for Israel," as Olmert and Peretz claimed, and the differences from the version of the resolution that was passed were slight.

Moreover, the ground offensive began while the final version had been finalized, and had no impact on its content.

The different drafts of the resolution is one of the main questions the Winograd Committee report due on January 30 is expected to address.

The IDF began its final ground offensive after a green light from Olmert, during the night of August 11, 2006. The forces were ordered to proceed and take up positions along the Litani River in anticipation of a cease-fire that was due to go into effect 60 hours later.

In practice, the forces failed in their mission and their progress was stopped, by orders of the political leadership, even before a cease-fire began.

On Thursday, August 10, at 4 P.M., deliberations in the Prime Minister's Bureau began with the U.S. envoy, David Welch, and the legal adviser at the State Department, Jonathan Schwartz. At the end of the meeting, three hours later, a draft of 1701 that was acceptable both to the U.S. and Israel was reached.

The Foreign Ministry's document evaluating the various drafts of the resolution dubbed this version the "Welch Draft."

It was clear that changes might take place when the Americans negotiated the draft at the United Nations with the French, who represented the position of the Lebanese government.

A new draft was received by Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Gillerman, following talks between the U.S. and French ambassadors to the international body. This draft served as the main reason for the final ground offensive.

Israel applied intense diplomatic pressure on the U.S. and France for changes to this draft, which were included. The final version was sent to Jerusalem on Friday, August 11, a little after 8 P.M. At that time the IDF had only begun flying forces deep into southern Lebanon, which was the first part of the ground offensive.

On Saturday, August 12, at 2:52 A.M., Resolution 1701 was passed at the Security Council. This was the version that Israel received seven hours earlier.

Sources close to the prime minister said on Saturday there were a number of reasons the final ground offensive went ahead. But it mainly stemmed from the feeling that there might be a last-minute softening in the American position, accepting the French/Lebanese demands, the sources said.

PM aide says opposed final ground offensive in Lebanon Meawnhile, one of the four individuals advising Olmert on August 11, 2006 - the day he decided to initiate the major ground offensive toward the end of the Second Lebanon War - says he advised against the operation and suggested a series of feints instead.

Major General (res.) Amiram Levine, told Haaretz on Saturday that he suggested the prime minister make do with creating the impression among Hezbollah and the international community that the Israel Defense Forces were about to advance in Lebanon.

In the first public statement by a participant in the August 11, 2006 meeting, Levine told Haaretz that he opposed a large-scale operation. "I wanted the world to believe we were going in without actually endangering soldiers. I gave the prime minister a detailed proposal," he said.

On Thursday Haaretz published a report of events at the end of the war, with details of the meetings Olmert held with Levine, Major General (res.) Yedidia Ya'ari, military systems analyst Dr. Haim Assa and opinion survey consultant Kalman Geier.