Judge Eliyahu Winograd, Who Chaired 2006 Lebanon War Inquiry, Dies at 91

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Eliyahu Winograd in Tel Aviv, March 13, 2012
Eliyahu Winograd in Tel Aviv, March 13, 2012Credit: David Bachar

Judge Eliyahu Winograd, who chaired a commission of inquiry into the Second Lebanon War of 2006, died Saturday night at the age of 91.

Winograd was born in Tel Aviv in 1926. His grandfather, Rabbi Pinchas Mordechai Winograd, had left his job as head of a Lithuanian yeshiva to move to Jerusalem in 1890. His father, a merchant, moved to Tel Aviv in 1921.

Eliyahu Winograd earned his law degree from what later became Tel Aviv University during the waning days of the British Mandate. He did his army service as head of the General Staffs legal department and then worked as a lawyer, both in the private sector and in the Tel Aviv district attorneys office.

He was appointed to the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court in 1972 and promoted to the citys district court in 1977. He spent almost two decades on that court, including seven years as its president from 1989 to 1996. During those decades, he also served as an acting Supreme Court justice.

After retiring from the bench, he worked as an arbitrator and mediator. In addition, he served on public commissions on a wide variety of topics including blood donations by Ethiopian immigrants and university tuition. He also headed the panel which decided that Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Mordechai should keep his rank despite his sexual assault conviction.

His most famous public position came in 2006, when he was appointed to chair a governmental inquiry commission into the Second Lebanon War. The eponymous Winograd Commission found many failures in the way the war was conducted by both the government and the Israel Defense Forces, but declined to assign personal responsibility to anyone.

Israel initiated a long war, which ended without its clear military victory, the commission wrote in its report, according to the official English-language summary. A semi-military organization of a few thousand men resisted, for a few weeks, the strongest army in the Middle East ... The barrage of rockets aimed at Israels civilian population lasted throughout the war, and the IDF did not provide an effective response to it.

The way the decision to go to war was made, the fact that Israel launched it before deciding whether to land a short, painful blow or embark on a major ground operation, and the lack of an exit strategy were all serious failures, which affected the whole war, the report continued. While noting that the problems resulted in part from inadequacies of preparedness and strategic and operative planning which go back long before the war began, Responsibility for these failures rested on both the political and the military echelons, it said.

In 2012, four years after this report was published, Winograd assailed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his then-defense minister, Ehud Barak, over reports that they were considering attacking Irans nuclear facilities. Winograd said he feared they hadnt internalized the reports conclusions.

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