PM to Challenge Some Winograd Findings

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is challenging some of the conclusions attributed to him in the Winograd Committee's interim report on the Second Lebanon War. According to his aides, Olmert is examining ways of presenting his concerns to the Winograd panel, either in written form or if he is asked to appear in front of the committee for a second time.

The sources also expressed their puzzlement at what they describe as a gap between the encouragement the panel gave Olmert during his testimony and the harsh conclusions in the report, which spoke of a "failure."

The Winograd Committee yesterday released the transcripts of the testimonies of Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former chief of staff Dan Halutz. In his testimony, Olmert criticized the performance of the Israel Defense Forces and gave his backing to Peretz.

Peretz, meanwhile, argued that he had not been told by the IDF that there were problems in the army's preparedness. Halutz said the IDF failed in the war in two areas: by not shortening the war and by not putting an end to the short-range Katyusha rockets attacking the North.

Olmert's objections to parts of the report relate to a number of issues. The committee wrote about a conversation between Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on the second day of the war in which she recommends "to start thinking about a diplomatic way of ending the incident." Livni testified that Olmert told her to "relax" because the army has "targets for 10 days."

Olmert is challenging the facts as they had been presented by Livni. He is critical of the committee for not asking him about the foreign minister's testimony, while the committee quotes her testimony in the report without asking for his response.

Regarding the gap Olmert's aides say exists between the tone of the panel during the prime minister's testimony and the subsequent harsh treatment in the report, they quote Professor Ruth Gavison, who referred to the deliberations on the first day of the war as "very impressive," and the congratulations from Professor Yehezkel Dror for achieving UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought the war to an end.

Only 89 pages of Olmert's testimony, which covered more than 200 pages, were permitted for publication following editing for security reasons. Sources familiar with the prime minister's full testimony say that it includes a great deal of congratulations from the panel members for the achievements during the war.

"It is not clear why they erased this," they said, "and it is not clear how these things fit with the conclusions of the partial [interim] report."

The transcript of the testimony that has been released suggests that the Winograd panel members were not impressed by the decision to go to war, and gave great weight to the testimony of Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who warned of complications.

On the other hand, the questions posed to Olmert and Peretz regarding the ground offensive as the cease-fire was nearing, and in which 33 soldiers were killed, were much less critical.

Responding to the publication of the transcripts yesterday, Peretz said that "I did my work out of belief and love for the country, and I am sure that this is how every citizen feels."

Aides said that "there is a gap between the findings of the committee and the testimony, and the conclusions of the interim report of the Winograd Committee."