Still Thumbing His Nose

It is hard to understand Olmert's burning need to bait the Winograd Committee and publicly slap its members, who are now composing their public verdict.

A week after the public was notified of the sea change that Ehud Olmert underwent in the past year, the prime minister proved, to our great regret, that the personality transplant didn't take. In a meeting with Meretz MKs, Olmert announced that he will not resign after the Winograd Committee report is released in a few days. In other words, regardless of the committee's findings, regardless of how the committee describes his performance - he will not budge from the prime minister's chair. Olmert thus proves that the arrogance and hastiness he displayed in the Second Lebanon War and which he has ostensibly shed have reached new heights.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the Winograd Committee says something along the lines of, "The prime minister's decision to order the ground operation in the last three days of the war points to a major spiritual weakening." Or, "The manner in which the prime minister controlled the operational developments during the war point to a total lack of understanding of military matters that is inappropriate to anyone seeking to lead the country." Or, "The testimony shows that the motivation behind the decision to occupy the territory up to the Litani River was based not on purely military needs but was influenced by secondary considerations of public image, which in light of the human price involved should be considered alien considerations." Perhaps the committee would use this kind of language: "In light of the series of faulty decisions made by Olmert in the course of the war and of the failures that resulted from his performance, we have no choice but to give the public the right to decide whether a man with these skills is suitable to be prime minister."

If statements such as these were to appear in the Winograd Report, would Olmert continue to manage the state's affairs? Would he still say he does not intend to resign?

However one chooses to view Olmert's announcement, it does not reflect either political wisdom or moral sensitivity. On the political plane, it is hard to understand his burning need to bait the committee and publicly slap its members, who are now composing their public verdict. While they are sitting and framing the report, the subject of their inquiry gets up and announces that he thumbs his nose at them.

Olmert directs his contempt toward five honorable people who for over a year have been toiling day and night, studying the sources of the calamity that befell the state in July-August 2006. Eliyahu Winograd, Ruth Gavison, Yehezkel Dror and Haim Nadel graciously took leave of their other important responsibilities to attend to a supreme public mission, and now the prime minister comes and treats them like the dust he shakes from his jacket.

Even before they voice their conclusions, which might be that he is not worthy of being prime minister (even if no explicit recommendation is made) - Olmert informs them that whatever their decision may be, he will remain in his position. He is the person who appointed them, one by one, to seal his public fate after rejecting the demand for a state commission of inquiry. He is the man who declared that the Winograd Committee's authority is to be identical to that of a state commission (with the authority to issue specific, personal recommendations). He is the man who announced in the Knesset, while the war was still being waged, that he bore supreme responsibility for its results.

On the moral plane, Olmert's statements to the Meretz MKs reflect an infuriating imperviousness; as if the way he waged war in Lebanon a year and a half ago, with its heavy human price, left no trace of appropriate or inappropriate, proper or improper. The investigations after the war, including those being summed up by Judge Winograd and his colleagues, led to a series of resignations and dismissals, from the defense minister and Israel Defense Forces chief of staff to divisional commanders. Only Olmert has remained at his post, as if his was not the hand that guided the conducting of the war, as if he does not carry that extra drop of responsibility that is the decisive test of a leader. Regretfully, we must say that Olmert does not sound like a person who has genuinely learned the lessons of the war.