The Public's Turn to Speak

Olmert has excelled at incendiary war speeches and mendacious peace speeches and he has surpassed himself in spin speeches and in lawyer speeches, but on his high horse, he has never said a word about the state of the nation.

Ever since he became prime minister, Ehud Olmert has never delivered an truthful speech about the state of the nation. Olmert has excelled at incendiary war speeches and mendacious peace speeches and he has surpassed himself in spin speeches and in lawyer speeches, but on his high horse, he has never said a word about the state of the nation. Yesterday, in snowy Jerusalem, Judge (ret.) Eliyahu Winograd had a great deal to say. The measured and harsh words that he read off the pages constituted not only a comprehensive analysis of the failure of the Second Lebanon War. They were a probing description of the state of the nation. Winograd exonerated Olmert of accusations of malice concerning the final ground operation. However, the justice and the committee he headed convicted the prime minister with respect to managing the war. They found serious failings and shortcomings in the decision-making processes and staff work in the political and the military echelons, they found serious failings and flaws in the lack of strategic thinking and planning. They asserted that the management of the battle was inadequate and was done without orderly discussion and without an unequivocal decision.

The members of the commission have stated that the manner in which the ground operation was conducted gives rise to extremely grave questions. They have also stated that a profound change is necessary in the patterns of action of the top government and military echelons and that a determined and ongoing effort will be needed to bring about change in the modes of action of the governmental-military system.

The commission has not confined itself to a narrow view of the Second Lebanon War but rather has warned that Israel will not be able to survive without proper governmental-military leadership, military capability and social strength.

So now it is official: The state of the nation is not good. At the head of a country that is facing existential challenges stands a superficial and hasty leadership. The political system, which is supposed to ensure the national existence, is inadequate. The governmental-official system is flawed. The army is tainted. And Israeli society is a tired society, its ethos unsuited to the historical circumstances it is in.

The Second Lebanon War revealed this. Winograd's state of the nation speech described this. The full report of the investigative commission details and explains this. So now it is the turn again of the public and its envoys to speak.

Above all, this applies to two envoys of the public: Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Both Barak and Livni know that Olmert has not changed because he is not capable of changing. Serious statesmanship is alien to him, fundamental thought could not be further from him. The prime minister is a first-rate politician, but an irresponsible captain. His irresponsibility is endangering Israel's future. True, Olmert is not the whole picture. He is not the essence of the problem, but he is its embodiment. As long as he is in charge of the nation's fate, it is unable to deal with the gravity of its situation. It will not be possible to deal with the Iranian threat at a time when the national leadership is trying to jump through hoops. It will not be possible to rehabilitate the country's and the army's systems when the commander-in-chief lacks integrity and lacks moral authority.

Barak and Livni know this. They are not entitled to deny what they know. Despite the risk involved in this, they must join forces and take action.

This is not only a matter of what is good for the country and its future. This is also a matter of what is good for Barak and Livni themselves. If they miss this moment and do not position themselves this weekend as the alternative leaders of the State of Israel, they will both fade away. If they do not stand up to Olmert, he will melt both of them down. If they do not prove at this time that they are people of values who are prepared to fight for their values, their fate will be like the fate of former defense minister Amir Peretz (MK Labor), former strategic affairs minister Avigdor Lieberman (MK Yisrael Beiteinu), Education Minister Yuli Tamir and Vice Prime Minister Haim Ramon. Like previous collaborators with the master sorcerer, they too will become stuffed political animals, hanging like decorations on the wall.

Yesterday evening the Winograd commission had its say. Despite all the attempts to castrate it and render it impotent, it has presented a precise picture of the war and its significance. Subject to the constraints that were imposed upon it, it has laid on the table a courageous diagnosis of Israel's ills. The entire Israeli public must grapple with this diagnosis, but the healing process must be led by the public's envoys.

The Winograd quintet has done its job. Now it is Livni's and Barak's turn.