The Winograd Commission, established by Israeli PM Ehud Olmert to investigate Israel’s notably unsuccessful performance in last summer’s war against Lebanon, today issued a first “Partial Report” in Jerusalem. The report covered only the period leading up to the war and the first six days of what turned out to be a 33-day war. It attributed “primary responsibility” for what it described as “very serious failings” in Israeli decisionmaking in this period to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the defense minister Amir Peretz, and the then-Chief of Staff Dan Halutz.
Paragraph 10 of the report’s Executive Summary detailed the main strategic failings thus:
- a. The decision to respond with an immediate, intensive military strike was not based on a detailed, comprehensive and authorized military plan, based on careful study of the complex characteristics of the Lebanon arena…
b. Consequently, in making the decision to go to war, the government did not consider the whole range of options, including that of continuing the policy of ‘containment’, or combining political and diplomatic moves with military strikes below the ‘escalation level’, or military preparations without immediate military action — so as to maintain for Israel the full range of responses to the abduction. This failure reflects weakness in strategic thinking, which derives the response to the event from a more comprehensive and encompassing picture.
c. The support in the cabinet for this move was gained in part through ambiguity in the presentation of goals and modes of operation, so that ministers with different or even contradictory attitudes could support it. The ministers voted for a vague decision, without understanding and knowing its nature and implications. They authorized to commence a military campaign without considering how to exit it.
d. Some of the declared goals of the war were not clear and could not be achieved, and in part were not achievable by the authorized modes of military action.
e. The IDF did not exhibit creativity in proposing alternative action possibilities, did not alert the political decision-makers to the discrepancy between its own scenarios and the authorized modes of action, and did not demand – as was necessary under its own plans – early mobilization of the reserves so they could be equipped and trained in case a ground operation would be required.
f. Even after these facts became known to the political leaders, they failed to adapt the military way of operation and its goals to the reality on the ground. On the contrary, declared goals were too ambitious, and it was publicly stated that fighting will continue till they are achieved. But the authorized military operations did not enable their achievement.
The report detailed four specific ways in which Olmert had failed and concluded that, “All of these add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence.” Of Peretz, it said, “the Minister of Defense failed in fulfilling his functions. Therefore, his serving as Minister of Defense during the war impaired Israel’s ability to respond well to its challenges.” And of Halutz it concluded, “the Chief of Staff failed in his duties as commander in chief of the army and as a critical part of the political-military leadership, and exhibited flaws in professionalism, responsibility and judgment.”