Since He Does Not Intend to Resign

If Olmert scares us with the right, it would be better for him not to be the first to surrender to it.

The moral vindication that Ehud Olmert received on the issue of the "final 60 hours" of the Second Lebanon War is likely to be interpreted by him as exempting him from responsibility for the rest of that war. So his decision not to resign as a result of the Winograd Committee's conclusions, and instead to insist on the "rehabilitation option," is truly scary. Because Olmert, as one who was found to be unable to manage one war, may conclude that he should try another, and then another still, until he learns how to do it. After all, there is an endless supply of fronts: He could try the Lebanese one again, rush into the Gaza Strip and also carry out the Iranian fantasy.

But it is also possible not to do so. As one who has decided that failures only make him a stronger prime minister, Olmert could bow his head before the committee's findings, give up his arrogance and understand that political decisions whose results are military are not part of his repertoire of skills. He could find consolation in the fact that he is not in such bad company. His former defense minister, Amir Peretz, also does not understand things military. And this category apparently includes major experts, like Shaul Mofaz, who as chief of staff continued the war in Lebanon for many years, or Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who sang the tune "there is no Palestinian partner," which was started by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak - that same Barak who prepared the ground for the breach of the border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. They currently enjoy the status of super-generals, as if had they been in control, the war would have come out differently.

Olmert has no such aura. He is the prime minister and is likely to remain, despite the national frustration. Because as long as the center and the left are agonizing over the decision between a failed prime minister - who is crooked, but who rambles on about peace, about "two states for two peoples," about "there is a partner," and about freezing the settlements - and a menacing shadow on the wall in the shape of Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and Arcadi Gaydamak, it is doubtful whether a mass of 400,000 protesters will gather at the square and demand Olmert's resignation.

Since it is impossible to bring back the Second Lebanon War, and since Olmert's resignation would mean relinquishing a heartfelt wish, it would be a real disaster if the prime minister also manages to avoid making good on the diplomatic prize he has promised the public: that same promised peace process with which he slams the public and his opponents every time there are demands for his resignation. This is no compensation for those frustrated over the Lebanon experience, but it represents real security for the country. Because those who are terrified by the possibility that this seat-bound prime minister will manage the next war should make sure it is prevented. And if this conclusion holds true about the prime minister, it is even more valid with regard to the army, whose shortcomings were exposed in detail by the Winograd report.

It is possible, and even necessary, to doubt talk of a quick rehabilitation of this complex establishment that rushed toward a war for which it was not prepared. Winograd concluded that "Israel will not be able to survive in this region and will not be able to exist in peace or even calm" unless both Israelis and their neighbors believe that Israel has the "political and military leadership, military capabilities and the social strength to deter those among its neighbors who would wish to harm it and to prevent them - with force if necessary - from carrying out their aims." But the Winograd report makes the depth of the void in leadership and military capabilities abundantly clear.

In light of the leadership gap and the military capabilities described in the Winograd report, it is impossible to allow Olmert to evade the logical path, especially when all other options have met with complete failure. Let him start small: remove the outposts, make arrangements for the opening of the Rafah crossing, remove dozens of redundant roadblocks, release prisoners and, in short, prepare the political ground for protecting a single small town down south. When he gets a little more courage, it will be possible to move on to serious dialogue on the core issues, including Jerusalem. Because if he scares us with the right, it would be better for him not to be the first to surrender to it. These may not be major demands, but after all is said and done, we are talking about Ehud Olmert.