PM Ignored Livni's Lebanon Exit Plan

Olmert approved foreign minister's plan 10 days after it was first proposed.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the Foreign Ministry staff began to plan the exit strategy from Lebanon on July 13, the day after the war broke out, according to the results of a Haaretz investigation of diplomatic moves during the war. However, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave his nod to the move only 10 days later.

Livni met with Olmert in July 16 and proposed a diplomatic exit from the crisis, but Olmert said the Israel Defense Force would need more time. The foreign minister then had difficulty gaining access to Olmert, encountering postponed and delayed meetings. Only a week later did Olmert approve the principles of the diplomatic plan, the crux of which was the deployment of a strong international force in Lebanon and an arms embargo on Hezbollah.

The plan was put together by a special Foreign Ministry team headed by Yossi Gal, the deputy director-general in charge of diplomatic affairs, with the participation of international law experts. Olmert at first objected to the international force, but after the IDF expressed support for the idea, Olmert accepted it on July 23. From that point on until the end of the war, Israel presented a coordinated stand, with diplomatic talks headed by Yoram Turbovicz, Olmert's chief of staff.

The Haaretz probe also revealed that the Foreign Ministry believed from the outset that Israel would have a difficult time freeing its captive soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, through a military operation. On July 18 and 19, Olmert said that the fighting would continue until the soldiers were released, but Israel had to backtrack on this position following a clarification by the U.S. administration that it would not support this demand. "We also have abductees in Iraq," U.S. officials said.

The Haaretz investigation details the moves preceding the United Nations' approval of a cease-fire on August 11.