Thursday, January 31, 2008

Left: Winograd Supports Olmert Right: Winograd Rejects Olmert

Hillel Fendel

If Judge Eliyahu Winograd and the members of his committee - who were charged with investigating the government's handling of the Second Lebanon War - hoped to put the matter to rest once and for all with their final report, they have failed. Following the release of their 500-page report Wednesday evening, and after a half-hour press conference in which the main conclusions were announced, both sides say their position has been strengthened. The PM's Office and Olmert supporters say that Winograd has vindicated their man, while the right-wing is saying the report means Olmert must resign.

MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union) said, "The interim report [issued in April '07] found that Olmert failed in the first week of the war. Already then it was clear that he failed and must resign. Olmert cannot hide now behind the vague formulations that were forced upon the Winograd Committee [in the final report]. It is clear that his decision to push off the ground offensive until the end of the war stemmed from his political needs."

MK Uri Ariel (National Union): "The Prime Minister's people are ignoring the clear statements by Justice Winograd [in last year's interim report] that the war was handled poorly, and that the Prime Minister ran it without experience or knowledge, without seriously relating to the details, and without serious staff work. Prime Minister Olmert is not suitable to continue to lead Israel in the face of the grave challenges and threats that face her."

On the other hand, MK Yoel Hasson, of Olmert's Kadima party, said, "The conclusions are clear and absolute, and determine that the war was not a failure and that the final-battle decisions were reasonable and considered."

Hasson said that the "de-legitimization and mud-slinging campaign against the Prime Minister was unacceptable from the outset. The opposition must ask forgiveness."

The Likud Party issued a statement calling on Olmert to take responsibility for his handling of the war and resign. "The Winograd Report is very grave and places clear responsibility on the government, which is headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert," the Likud announced. "Olmert must take personal responsibility and resign. Defense Minister Ehud Barak [of Labor, Kadima's largest coalition partner - ed.], who promised [several months ago] to quit the government when the final report was published, must fulfill his promise. If Barak is looking for an excuse in the report to avoid resigning, he won't find any."

MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) also said Olmert must quit: "The Winograd Report's determination regarding the grave faults and deficiencies in the government and the army mean that Olmert must go the way of [ex-Defense Minister Amir] Peretz and [ex-IDF Chief of Staff Dan] Halutz. If Olmert evades taking responsibility, then it is incumbent upon Barak to stand by his word and dismantle the government."

Labor MK Eitan Cabel, who has been pushing his party to quit the government, said that the latest findings must not erase the impression of the earlier findings, which were very critical of the Prime Minister.

Cabinet Minister Ruhama Avraham-Belila (Kadima) said, "The members of the commission did their work well, and presented an accurate report of failings and faults that were found. The opposition's attempt to find fault with the way the decisions were made received a resolute response in the words of Winograd. The opposition must apologize to the public, the Prime Minister, and the bereaved families."

The Media
Media analysis was mixed as well: Army Radio commentators speculated that the report was a "softening" of the interim report, while Voice of Israel's broadcasters wasted no time in asserting that Olmert had passed the crisis and was vindicated by Winograd.

Arutz-7 bloggers Michael Freund and Yitzhak Klein both weighed in on the post-Winograd spins. Freund claims Olmert;s aides are grasping at straws to try to spin the report positively, while Klein doubts Shas or Labor will bring down the government and calls on citizens to obliterate all parties involved when the next elections finally arrive.

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