Winograd Committee: We Won't Call for Resignations, Let the Public Decide

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not intend to resign following the release of the Winograd Committee interim report on the Second Lebanon War, which he will receive tomorrow.

"Olmert's motivation to survive is very high, and if the prime minister goes, they should all go," Olmert's associates said after portions of the report were released last night on Channel 10 by reporter Chico Menashe.

Olmert intends to implement the report's recommendations, his associates said.

The Winograd Committee is expected to be highly critical of Olmert, focusing on the decision to go to war on July 12. Committee members gave a great deal of weight to Vice Premier Shimon Peres' statements at the meeting when the cabinet decided to go to war, where he raised questions as to the coming phases. The draft report states that Olmert made a mistaken and hasty judgment and that he did not manage events, but rather was dragged along by the army. Olmert did not ask the army for alternative plans to those it presented and did not ask the right questions, the draft report says.

The draft also takes former chief of staff Dan Halutz severely to task. Halutz did not consider the Katyushas seriously, it says, and forced the cabinet to accept his decisions. He did not present alternatives, and used the cabinet as a kind of rubber stamp. Halutz also silenced army brass who sought to present different opinions.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz is presented by the report as lacking experience and understanding, and having no influence. Criticism of Peretz will focus on his decision to take the defense portfolio despite his lack of a security background.

The committee also noted that Peretz did not try to study the defense establishment to overcome his lack of experience. The report also contends that Peretz did not use the right experts as advisers during the war.

Olmert is expected to present two main arguments in response to the report: The first is that from his first days in office, he conducted more briefings on the situation in Lebanon than his predecessors and directed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for a kidnapping of soldiers in the north. The second is that the cabinet unanimously supported a harsh military response, and its ministers are as responsible as he is.

"The judgment of the cabinet cannot be replaced by the judgment of a committee," Olmert associates said. "People [cabinet ministers] were elected, and now they are accused of being dragged along by the army. There were failures and problems that should be corrected, but the prime minister is not the address for all the problems, and all the responsibility is being placed on him as if he decided by himself."

The associates said Olmert has no bone to pick with the Winograd Committee. "He appointed the committee and believes in the integrity of its members," a source said.

Channel 2 reported last night that the draft states that the prime minister and the defense minister both failed. Halutz, according to Channel 2, suffered from "over-charisma" that blocked the cabinet from getting him to present alternatives to his plan.

Fault-finding with the political-security leadership in the six years before the war is expected to be less severe. However, Halutz's predecessor Moshe Ya'alon was also slammed for not preparting the army for a conflict in the north and not relating seriously to the Katyusha threat.

The Winograd Committee expressed anger over the leaks of the report, which was to be kept secret until tomorrow afternoon.

Sources close to the committee have said recently that the report would cause a political and public "earthquake." They have said the report would be harsh and dig deep, but would not include recommendations that action be taken against individuals responsible for failures during the war.

Sources said they hoped the report would engender public discussion regarding the continuing tenure of individuals involved.