Olmert Gets Shahak Panel Findings, but Is in No Hurry to Implement

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert avoided announcing yesterday the adoption of the recommendations presented to him by the Shahak committee evaluating the decision-making process in the Prime Minister's Bureau in matters of national security. Instead, Olmert appointed his chief of staff, Yoram Turbowicz, "to coordinate the activities related to the implementation of the committee's recommendations."

Olmert appointed the committee under the leadership of former chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, to recommend ways of implementing the system-wide recommendations of the Winograd Committee's interim report.

The Shahak committee's recommendations focus mainly on the bolstering of the National Security Council and giving it a central role in the decision-making at the Prime Minister's Bureau, and have caused significant angst among Olmert's aides.

The prime minister has sought a compromise formula, which would allow him to be seen as adopting the Shahak committee's recommendations, on the one hand, and yet avoid having to commit to their immediate implementation.

The only recommendation that Olmert instructed be adopted immediately is that the NSC should answer directly to the prime minister, and not to the head of the council.

During a meeting of ministers yesterday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed his reservations at the possibility that a powerful decision-making body would be created alongside the prime minister.

Barak's reservations came in response to a recommendation of the Shahak committee that a "central unit, with significant authority," should be set up in the PM'S Bureau in order to anchor the NSC.

"The existence of such a unit does not guarantee that the right decisions will be made," the committee wrote, "but it will be able to limit the extent of the errors that are inherently part of the process."

The NSC will work on "matters of foreign policy and defense, and subjects relevant to these [areas]," as a unit of the prime minister, the security and foreign affairs cabinet and the entire government in matters of defense.

In the Shahak committee's report, the head of the NSC will serve as the national security adviser TO the prime minister, and will be responsible for a daily briefing, as well as coordinating the forum of senior officials that contributes to the formulation of foreign and defense policies.