The Captives of Winograd

The abduction of eight soldiers from the area under Menahem Einan?s command in August 1982 led to the mother of all deals, the Jibril deal. This did not prevent Einan from advancing to become a major general. The question is whether he will have the courage to demand of today?s senior IDF officers what he did not demand of himself.

Israel has always failed to prevent rocket and artillery fire on the territories under its control. This was true during the War of Attrition along the Suez Canal (1969-70); Yasser Arafat's Katyusha rockets brought Menachem Begin to his knees after two weeks of shelling Kiryat Shmona in 1981; and those same Katyushas, this time fired by Hezbollah over the heads of the Israel Defense Forces troops in southern Lebanon, dragged Israel into two largely aerial offensives, Operation Accountability and Operation Grapes of Wrath. Success was always limited, and was conditional on a combination of political agreement and military presence, which in itself took a toll.

Six weeks of Scud missiles on Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan and Haifa - which actually caused few casualties because the residents, who were more sensible than their arrogant leaders, evacuated their homes - gave concrete form to the Shamir government and the general staff's failure to prepare for an air attack. The air and commando attacks by American and British forces, and the Patriot missiles intended to intercept the Scuds, did not help. It was only the cease-fire, a partial surrender by Iraq, that stopped the Scuds.

Dan Shomron, then chief of staff, knows that had a commission of inquiry been established in March 1991 to look into the government's and the army's shortcomings before and during the war, everyone would have been damaged - Shamir, defense ministers Moshe Arens and Yitzhak Rabin, deputy chief of staff Ehud Barak, Military Intelligence head Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, and others. They had other priorities that were closer at hand: Syria, the intifada. They acted based on reasonable, but mistaken, considerations. Were they to have been judged by the mood of the nation in 2007, all of them would have been dismissed.

Shomron was right last week when he refused to be dragged along by the fashion of sending military heads rolling. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who do not comprehend the supreme responsibility of their posts, failed their first day in office when they did not meet with the General Staff, work out a comprehensive strategy or peruse the operational plans for every sector and scenario. But in the media's constant demand that stubborn Chief of Staff Dan Halutz finally resign, lies a desire for satisfaction rather than progress.

Halutz did not fail more than Haim Bar-Lev in the War of Attrition, Rafael Eitan in Lebanon in 1982, Shomron in 1991, or those who have been conducting the fight against Palestinian terror since 2000. All have their achievements and their tolls.

We are not talking about an injustice: Since the war, as a captive to the caprices of individuals (Doron Almog) and as a small-time politician (If you keep me Amos Yadlin, you can get rid of Gal Hirsh), Halutz has displayed very little military leadership. But dismissing him now, before the other General Staff detainees are released from the Winograd lock-up, would make it impossible to set up a new team.

The next test falls on the Winograd committee. During the first Lebanon war, Menahem Einan had limited success as commander of the 162nd Division. The abduction of eight Nahal soldiers from the area under his command in August 1982 led to the mother of all deals, the Jibril deal. This did not prevent Einan and his group of brigadier generals from advancing to become major generals. The question is whether Einan will have the moral courage to demand of today's senior IDF officers what he did not demand of himself.

The group dynamics among the five committee members will, of course, determine a great deal, as will the extent to which they try to achieve a unanimous report. In the Kahan commission of inquiry, military representative Maj. Gen. Yona Efrat allegedly saved the head of his friend, Maj. Gen. Amir Drori. We must demand in advance that the transcripts of the decisive Winograd committee meetings be made public.