The Press / Only for the History Books

Today it will finally happen. The promos have been running for 485 days, almost a year and a half, creating grandiose expectations of a catharsis that will seal the prime minister's fate. On April 30, 2007, we were given an appetizer in the form of the partial report, which boded ill for Ehud Olmert. Since then, we have been waiting with bated breath for the other shoe to fall - this time, on his head. But as is usually the case with manipulative promos, the great promise will most likely burst when it hits the ground of reality, and the drama will be buried under a mountain of words. In other words, nothing will happen.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef set the tone yesterday. He called Olmert, wished him luck and signed off with a portentous blessing: "Fear not, be not dismayed, for I am with you." With a political boost like that from the Shas party's spiritual leader, Olmert can rest easy. But one need not be a Torah sage to understand the obvious: The report cannot tell us much that is new, and it certainly cannot alter the basic elements underpinning Olmert's government. Party interests remain unchanged, the facts of the war are known to all, and the report will be "systemic" without personal recommendations.

What is left? More of the madness that has tormented the public for months; more of the media/public relations campaign, now focused on analyzing the Winograd text. Was it formulated with journalistic sharpness or academic caution? Did it view the final 60 hours of the war as a "legitimate political decision," an "error in judgment" or "bad faith" on the government's part?

Politicians, advisers and pundits will turn into detectives. Each will be able to find whatever he hoped to find in the report - as if it mattered. Even exceptionally harsh phraseology will have trouble generating a critical mass of protest (say, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators), and nothing less can effect political change. Granted, the media will blow up the story as much as possible, but it will encounter a public sick of manipulations and spin, for whom the very word "Winograd" is reason enough to seek refuge in distraction.

The public did not need this evening's performance to make up its mind. It had all the information needed to decide. It failed to do so only because it has become accustomed to commissions of inquiry telling it how to act. The problem is that the Winograd Committee deliberately castrated itself. Anyone who is hunting Olmert's scalp will be disappointed because the committee decided to limit itself to "clarifying the facts" and eschew personal conclusions. Anyone seeking backing for Olmert's continuation in power will be disappointed for the same reason (in reverse). Either way, tonight's performance will be an empty political show, useful only for the history books.