The Winograd Test

The basic premise of the Winograd Committee rests on faulty ground in trying to bypass the legal system and free the government from the fear of the judiciary.

The Winograd Committee is a panel under suspicion. It was founded on flawed ethics: Its interrogators have been appointed by those they are interrogating. The basic premise of the committee rests on faulty ground in trying to bypass the legal system and free the government from the fear of the judiciary.

The Winograd Committee was established in a scandalous manner. Its members were not chosen for their qualifications, but for their perceived convenience for the establishment. Eliyahu Winograd, Ruth Gavison, Yehezkel Dror, Menachem Einan and Haim Nadal were handpicked by a shrewd prime minister, who wanted them to exonerate him from the responsibility for Israel's failure in a war he both started and managed.

There is no doubt about it: If an inquiry committee were formed to investigate the Winograd Committee, it would find that it was born in sin. It would find that it completely lacks moral authority. The fact that the committee chose to conduct all its debates behind closed doors has eroded its credibility even further.

The committee members took upon themselves a horrifying responsibility when they accepted this problematic mission. They neutralized the protest movements and ensured the continued existence of a blundering government for another crucial year. By closing the committee's doors to the public they prevented Israeli society from seeing its leaders' blunders and inexplicably granted them an alibi.

Apparently the Winograd Committee's already problematic structure was aggravated as a result of Daniel Friedmann's appointment as justice minister. By appointing Friedmann, Olmert's government adopted Professor Gavison's judiciary agenda. Gavison is the brightest and most critical among the Winograd Committee's members.

However, as of last week, Gavison and Olmert have been acting like members of the same party. Gavison is not only Olmert's favorite candidate for the Supreme Court, she is his intellectual guru. When she makes a decision in Olmert's case within the Winograd Committee's framework, Gavison won't be able to ignore the fact that she is sealing the fate of her partner in the struggle for the Supreme Court's image.

The significance of these accumulated facts is grave. At the present critical moment, when Israel needs a new normative beginning, we have a national inquiry being conducted by a panel whose own value system is rickety.

The committee's members are good, decent Israelis. Their Zionist patriotism is unquestionable. However, the manipulative use to which the current cynical government has put them, alongside their beliefs and values, may prove to be their stumbling block. Unless Winograd and his friends are very, very careful, their work will not provide an answer to the Israeli crisis - it may actually worsen it.

This is how the horror scenario could unfold: The Winograd Committee decides to adopt Dan Halutz's philosophy and refrain from chopping heads. Since the committee is already suspected of bias, the public is outraged. However, since the committee's dubious acquittal enables Olmert and Peretz to remain in office, Israel does not reach a catharsis and fails to open a new chapter in its history.

Professors Gavison and Dror's complicated texts are stored in the Prime Minister's Office in Givat Ram. The logistic and strategic comments of generals Einan and Nadal are recorded in the General Staff's elegant offices in the Kirya (Military Headquarters). Judge Winograd's educational statements get one day's glory on the front page. But the last chance to repair Israel is missed. The last chance to put Israel on a new course goes down the drain.

Personal conclusions are not the be all and end all. They are a necessary condition, not a sufficient one. Removing Olmert and Peretz from the government will not cure the ills of Israeli society, the Israeli army and the Israeli state. But without ousting Olmert and Peretz from the government there is no chance of bringing about the change in values Israel needs so much. Without ousting them there is no chance of realizing the desperately needed revolution in government. Without ousting them there is no chance of rehabilitating the IDF and renewing its deterrence power.

Therefore, if the members of the Winograd Committee are lenient with those who appointed them, they will not be exonerated. The public will rise up against them and history will denounce them. Whatever its opinion on the failures of the last war, the panel will be responsible for Israel's failures in the next war.