Prime Minister Olmert / Running Israel in an Improvised Way

The leadership's testimony to the Winograd Committee is a fascinating document, among the most important ever made public about the Israeli government. Despite the heavy censorship, the transcripts are breathtaking, a rare moment when the country's leaders are exposed.

The opportunity to read Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz, and Dan Halutz talk about the Second Lebanon War in front of tough interviewers not embarrassed to interrupt them and ask them to get to the point justifies the legal battle carried out by MK Zahava Gal-On, who demanded that the testimonies be released. The public is entitled to know who its leaders are.

The main feeling that stems from the testimonies is that the country is run in an improvised manner. During his visit to the General Staff before the war, Olmert is told by Halutz and the GOC Northern Command, Udi Adam, that he can rely on the IDF.

During the cabinet meeting, on the night a decision is made to go to war, the ministers are babbling about "a hard blow," a "sharp response," not knowing what they are talking about. And in all these meetings one simple question is overlooked: How will the military plan achieve the ambitious objectives that Olmert has set, and how long will it take?

No one thought it would last 33 days. Olmert promised to fight "until the abducted soldiers are returned" and explains in retrospect that "there are things that are said because they need to be said."

From the testimonies there is a troubling absence of concern on the part of the committee for the ethical aspects of the war. Not a single question is asked, not even by Professor Ruth Gavison, once the head of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, about the decision to target Lebanese civilians.

All reference to damage to Lebanese towns and infrastructure is done in sterile terminology of cost and effect. Would this bring us closer to achieving our goals? Would it stir international outrage?

Olmert and Halutz acknowledge that the bombing of the village of Qana on July 29, in which dozens of civilians were killed, was a negative turning point for Israel and occurred at a time when it was possible to reach a favorable political solution for ending the war.

But the accident of the bombing was the result of a decision to target homes in Lebanese villages to counter rocket attacks. Beyond the ethical issue, this was a failed gambit that extended the war. The committee should look at the story of Qana and discuss it in its final report.