DEBKAfile: Judge Winograd blames Lebanon War’s “great missed opportunity” on Israel’s government and its senior military command alike
January 30, 2008, 8:41 PM (GMT+02:00)
Ex-Judge Eliahu Winograd
Summing up the report the Lebanon War inquiry commission released Wednesday, Jan 30, chairman ex-justice Eliahu Winograd found grave failings in the management of the 34-day war of 2006 by the Israel’s political and military leadership alike. The war, declared after a Hizballah cross-border raid which kidnapped two Israeli reservists, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, claimed the lives of 119 Israeli soldiers and 45 civilians.
Although the Israeli army is the most powerful in the Middle East, said the judge, it failed to achieve a clear military victory or quell Hizballah rocket fire on the civilian population of northern Israel throughout the entire conflict.
The government was headed by Ehud Olmert and the army by chief of staff Dan Halutz and the general staff.
The panel chairman went on to say:
From July 18 to Aug 14, 2006, when a ceasefire went into effect, decision-making was devoid of strategic thinking. The failure to secure the civilian population and the army’s unreadiness for combat left only two options – a stunning strike or an extensive operation to alter the geopolitics of Lebanon.
The government and military command wasted a precious three weeks vacillating. To the very end, they never made up their mind which of the two to pursue. Meanwhile, Hizballah was able to shoot 3,970 short-range rockets undisturbed.
The decision to send in ground forces was dragged out for too long for the operation to exhaust its full potential, either militarily or diplomatically. While Israel did achieve certain diplomatic benefits [from the UN Security Council ceasefire resolution] those advantages were less than could have been achieved had the military provided better results.
The large-scale ground thrust of the last 60 days of the war was almost essential. The decision itself was not flawed but the policy-makers at the top [the prime minister, defense minister Amir Peretz and foreign minister Tzipi Livni] failed to follow through on the way the operation developed and its outcome. Therefore, this step failed to achieve its desired results and its gains were not available to support the hoped-for diplomatic outcome.
Judge Winograd stressed that the final report of 629 pages and the preliminary findings published last April were part of the same document. That report on the opening days of the war found that Olmert and his government had displayed poor decision-making skills and lack of judgment. Their decisions were not the result of a comprehensive, organized military plan. That report placed the primary responsibility for the war's failings at the door of the prime minister, defense [Amir Peretz] and the former Chief of Staff. The latter two later resigned.
While critical of government ministers and the military high command, the judge had high praise for the courage, devotion and willingness for sacrifice displayed by the soldiers in the field, especially the reservists; the Air Force’s achievement in knocking out Hizballah’s long-range missile on the second day of the war; and the Navy’s effective back-up for the Northern Command. UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was an achievement, even though many of its provisions were destined never to be fulfilled.
The judge concluded that the State of Israel will not survive unless its neighbors are convinced that its society is robust and governed by political and military leaders strong enough to make the right decisions for determining its fate.