Winograd Slams PM for 'Rash' Decision Making

The Winograd Committee was particularly harsh on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the way he embarked on the Second Lebanon War, describing his conduct during the conflict as "a serious failure." The committee said Olmert had "made a personal contribution" to the fact that the declared goals of the war " were over-ambitious and not feasible."

"A leader who sends his army into an extensive military operation has an obligation to the country, the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces who risk their lives, and the citizens both of Israel and Lebanon. These obligations include and in-depth analysis of the necessity for a military move, its timing and its nature, and of the chances of its success given the area. We saw that the rash decisions to go to war made by the government headed by Olmert did not meet these conditions."

According to the committee, with regard to the move from containment on the northern border to a harsh military response, "the decision-making processes between Olmert and himself were from our point of view a kind of a black box."

The committee determined that Olmert came to important discussions with his mind already made up and that decision were made by "an essentially informal process which has no public documentation, and this preliminary decision by the prime minister was turned into a cabinet decision without its having gone through a significant critical process.

"The decision-making process by the prime minister, as it was revealed to us in this case, show a considerable failure," the committee said.

According to the committee, Olmert did not know that the military actions on which he was deciding on July 12 would not weaken Hezbollah and did not properly assess the significance of rocket fire on the home front. "However, a prime minister leading an extensive military operation cannot hide behind this lack of knowledge."

The committee wrote that Olmert apparently thought that "the most important decision he had to make was to dare to act militarily."

It said that these "unfounded hopes or assumptions were an insufficient basis for a decision to go to war."

Depending on the IDF without full data and a well-thought-out plan of action was "a shortcoming at the root of the prime minister's judgment," the committee said.

It also criticized Olmert for not properly checking whether the IDF could fulfill its tasks, and said he made do with the support of the ministers and the military brass without checking into alternatives.

Ignoring the home front

The committee slammed Olmert for what it called his ignoring the situation on the home front. The committee expressed reservations at Olmert's July 17 speech to the Knesset in which he presented the goals of the war and promised to persist until the kidnapped soldiers were returned and the threat was removed "from the Middle East." The committee said that at this point Olmert clearly knew that some of these goals were unattainable.

The committee found that "the prime minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one." It also noted that Olmert's decision "was made without close study of the complex features of the Lebanon front and of the military, political and diplomatic options available to Israel."

The committee also found Olmert "responsible for the fact that the goals of the campaign were not set out clearly and carefully, and that there was no serious discussion of the relationships between these goals and the authorized modes of military action."