Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dangerous Leadership, Winnograd Interim Report

The Winograd commission’s interim report was harshly critical of Israel’s former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, currently taking a course at Harvard University. The report said, essentially, that Halutz mislead Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister, while ignoring advice from subordinates that launching a war was a mistake. Halutz also kept these dissenting opinions from Olmert and Peretz.

The commission criticized Olmert for rushing his poorly trained and ill-prepared army into war. They further criticized him for not consulting with other sources other than Halutz. The commission stated that had three other men been at the helm, rather than Olmert, Peretz and Halutz, the outcome of the war would have been different.

So far, amid calls in the press and among opposition politicians for his resignation, Olmert is hanging tough, refusing to resign. The Labor Party’s Cabinet Minister Eytan Cabel resigned today in protest over Olmert’s leadership, saying he could no longer serve in the government. Some analysts predict that this could cause a “domino” effect” with other Labor party members quitting the government, causing the coalition to collapse.

Political pundits on Israel Radio predicted that Olmert’s government would last no more than another week, with new elections by the end of the summer 2007.

Zeev Shiff, the dean of military correspondents in Israel, wrote in today’s Haaretz newspaper that Olmert and Peretz must resign, since they can not be allowed to lead Israel should another war break out.

Kadima party members Shitrit and Dichter however voiced support for Olmert. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit backed Olmert on Tuesday, even as senior Kadima officials - including government ministers - said Monday they would call on Olmert to resign.

Coalition Chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki spoke Tuesday with several Kadima MKs. and discussed the need to immediately replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in the wake of the Winograd Committee's report on the government's failures during the Second Lebanon War.__

According to the Haaretz newspaper, Yitzhaki designated Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as the preferred heir to Olmert. Yitzhaki said this move was coordinated with Livni. Yithaki proposed forming a group of MKs that will approach the prime minister together in order to ask his to resign.

Another rival to Olmert is Kadima party Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. But according to the Israeli media, Mofaz was the former Chief-of-Staff and then Defense Minister under Ariel Sharon, and as such responsible for six-years of neglect of the Israeli army, including ignoring the clear build-up of Hezbollah forces on the border.

According to Israel Radio PM Olmert no longer trusts Foreign Minister Livni, who he fears is trying to replace him. Knesset Member Zeev Boim, speaking on Israel Radio, thought that Olmert should resign and be replaced by a “rotation” of Prime Ministers from the leading parties in the coalition.

The Labor Party leadership is also striving to distance itself from party chairman Defense Minister Peretz. Former PM Ehud Barak, who carries his own heavy baggage, since he was responsible for the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, wants to replace Peretz. So does former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon. Professor Avishai Braverman, who also has top leadership ambitions, today also called on Olmert to resign

The Likud party is burdened with the leadership of former Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, who is considered arrogant and aloof by the Israeli public.

The commission was also critical of past governments, saying that both the military and the political leadership had mistakenly decided that Israel no longer had to be prepared for war, that those days were past. Any politician or military leader who served during the period leading up to the War in Lebanon II was to blame for the failure of the army, the kidnapping of the three soldiers, and the loss of Israeli lives.

A protest rally is scheduled for Thursday night to pressure Olmert to step down.