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Israel, Lebanon, Winograd

Very interesting to see an inquiry into a state cock-up that actually does its job and doesn't pull it's punches or rely on a narrow interpretation of its terms of reference. Would that there were more Winograds around. 

Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian responds to the Winograd report:

"An 81-year-old retired judge, Eliyahu Winograd, has just given a masterclass in how to conduct a genuine, fearless and plainspoken inquiry into a government failure. While our own inquisitors into aspects of the Iraq war retreated either into whitewash (Hutton) or polite circumlocution (Butler), Winograd delivered it straight, and right between the eyes."

"This round of self-flagellation was not prompted by concern that the 2006 pounding of Lebanon was "disproportionate", to recall the word of that hour. Israelis still believe they had every right to take on Hizbullah, who had abducted two Israeli soldiers from Israeli soil and had thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli civilian towns. The criticism is not that Olmert fought the war but that he fought it badly. That he didn't achieve his stated aims of freeing the soldiers and de-fanging Hizbullah; that he sent troops in harm's way with no coherent plan and insufficient protection; and that a non-victory against a mere guerrilla movement has shattered the IDF aura of invincibility essential to deter Israel's enemies. It's for that series of failures that he has been slammed.

As a result, Olmert is a dead man walking. An instant poll for Israel's Channel 10 sought to discover how many people would vote for Olmert if elections were held today. The answer was 0%, surely a political first in any country at any time."

The text of the report is available on the main Israel government website here. This is the core paragraph: 

"10. The main failures in the decisions made and the decision-making processes can be summed up as follows:

a. The decision to respond with an immediate, intensive military strike was not based on a detailed, comprehensive and authorized military plan, based on carefull study of the complex characteristics of the Lebanon arena. A meticulous examination of these characteristics would have revealed the following:  the ability to achieve military gains having significant political-international weight was limited; an Israeli military strike would inevitably lead to missiles fired at the Israeli civilian north;  there was not other effective military response to such missile attacks than an extensive and prolonged ground operation to capture the areas from which the missiles were fired - which would have a high “cost” and which did not enjoy broad support. These difficulties were not explicitly raised with the political leaders before the decision to strike was taken.

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 immediage 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 achieveable 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 states that fighting will continue till they are achieved.  But the authorized military operations did not enable their achievement."

Jonathan Freedland again:

"Israel is shaking from the shock of it, but it should also allow itself a pang of pride in the Winograd process. Handpicked by Olmert himself, this government inquiry was assumed to lack the independence of a state probe staffed by supreme court judges. But Winograd and his team were nobody's patsies: instead they dared to speak uncomfortable truth to arrogant power. Israel's boast that it is the only democracy in the Middle East is often met with a snort. But this exercise has shown that - at least within its own borders - Israel is capable of a democratic accountability entirely absent in its region."


Now, how about getting Winograd to look at Iraq? 



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US pummelled UN into submission

The Guardian has published an extraordinary account of the last few years in Palestine and Israel by retiring UN envoy Alvaro de Soto: Guardian summary here; full text (52 page scanned pdf) here.

 "Wolfensohn's mission began to run aground after his attempts to broker an agreement on access and movement were intercepted - some would say hijacked - at the last minute by US envoys and ultimately Rice herself."

"Since, as I recall, the test of  occupation in international law is effective control of the population, few international lawyers contest the view that Gaza remains occupied ..."

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