Jerusalem, Israel – During the 34 days of Israel’s war in Lebanon last summer, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Cabinet Secretary conducted constant briefings with the media, repeating over and over the precise war aims of the Israeli government at the time:

1) Israeli army prisoners, Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped on July 12, 2006, must be returned to Israel.

2) The Lebanese army must be the only force deployed in Southern Lebanon; Hezbollah must be expelled from Southern Lebanon.

Yet on Aug. 15, after Israel pushed for and accepted a cease-fire without any of these conditions being fulfilled, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman conduct a press briefing to announce that war aims had been achieved as soon as the cease-fire resolution been approved by the U.N. Security Council.

One reporter then asked a simple question: How could Olmert contradict the previous statement of Israel’s war aims? No answer was forthcoming.

The Olmert government claimed that Israel had achieved its stated war aims by accepting a cease-fire – one that left Hezbollah in place and which did not lead to the return of the hostages.

This led to mass street demonstrations, led by the families of fallen Israeli soldiers and families of Israeli reservists who had been called up for service during the war. The demands of these demonstrations were for an official independent investigation of how the war was conducted and for the resignation of the Israeli government and military leadership.

Olmert agreed to a commission of inquiry – however, not to an independent commission of inquiry. Olmert appointed the commission, whose mandate was to investigate every aspect of decision-making in the war, yet without a mandate to recommend that any Israeli government official or Israeli military official be fired.

The universal expectation was that Olmert’s handpicked panel would criticize the government and the army, without mentioning Israeli government and military leaders by name.

Therefore, the Olmert government and the public at large in Israel were taken by surprise by the intense, personal tone of Olmert’s own commission of investigation.

“We determine that there are very serious failings in these decisions and the way they were made. We impose the primary responsibility for these failures on the Prime Minister, the minister of Defense and the (outgoing) Chief of Staff. All three made a decisive personal contribution to these decisions and the way in which they were made. However, there are many others who share responsibility for the mistakes we found in these decisions and for their background conditions …

“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 … .”

And the conclusions of the commission were clear and unambiguous:

* “The Prime Minister bears supreme and comprehensive responsibility for the decisions of ‘his’ government and the operations of the army. His responsibility for the failures in the initial decisions concerning the war stemmed from his position and from his behavior, as he initiated and led the decisions which were taken.

* “The Prime Minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one.

“Also, his decision was made without close study of the complex features of the Lebanon front and of the military, political and diplomatic options available to Israel. He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the IDF, despite not having experience in external-political and military affairs. In addition, he did not adequately consider political and professional reservations presented to him before the fateful decisions of July 12th.

* “The Prime Minister is responsible for the fact that the goals of the campaign were not set out clearly and carefully, and that there was no serious discussion of the relationships between these goals and the authorized modes of military action. He made a personal contribution to the fact that the declared goals were over-ambitious and not feasible.

* “The Minister of Defense did not have knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters. He also did not have good knowledge of the basic principles of using military force to achieve political goals.

“Despite these serious gaps, he made his decisions during this period without systemic consultations with experienced political and professional experts, including outside the security establishment. In addition, he did not give adequate weight to reservations expressed in the meetings he attended.

* “The Minister of Defense did not act within a strategic conception of the systems he oversaw. He did not ask for the IDF’s operational plans and did not examine them; he did not check the preparedness and fitness of IDF; and did not examine the fit between the goals set and the modes of action presented and authorized for achieving them. His influence on the decisions made was mainly pointillist and operational. He did not put on the table – and did not demand presentation – of serious strategic options for discussion with the Prime Minister and the IDF.

* “…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. …

* “Members of the IDF’s general staff who were familiar with the assessments and intelligence concerning the Lebanon front, and the serious deficiencies in preparedness and training, did not insist that these should be considered within the army … .”

Bar Ilan University Prof. Ephraim Inbar, one of Israel’s experts in strategic warfare, went a step farther, writing that “by denying the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) victory, they squandered an opportunity to destroy the bulk of Hezbollah’s military presence in southern Lebanon, settle regional scores, enhance Israel’s deterrence and strengthen Jerusalem’s alliance with Washington.”

Inbar went on to say that “Israel’s intelligence organs had neglected to collect intelligence regarding Hezbollah’s short-range Katyushas. And that Israeli military officials had considered such rockets as weapons of little consequence because of their inaccuracy and small warheads … .”

“The war showed Israel’s northern population to be ill-prepared to withstand a large rocket barrage. Most of the short-range Katyushas fell in empty fields and caused little damage, but 25 percent of the nearly 4,000 missiles launched hit urban areas and paralyzed the whole of northern Israel, its main port, refineries and many other strategic installations. Over 1 million Israelis lived in bomb shelters and about 300,000 temporarily left their homes and sought refuge in the south.”

Inbar also questioned why Israel did not strike Syrian targets to signal Israel’s determination to deal with terrorist and proxy threats, enhancing Israeli deterrence.

Olmert, Peretz Still Will Not Resign: More Mass Demonstrations Expected

Even though Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz resigned in disgrace in anticipation of the personal conclusions of the Olmert’s war investigation commission, Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz each announced that, in the wake of the commission’s conclusion, that neither disgraced Israeli public official would resign.

Why? Because the commission did not explicitly demand their respective dismissals. Instead, the spokespeople of Olmert and Peretz issued a barrage of statements to the media that they would follow through on the commission’s recommendations for improvement in communication and coordination between the Israeli army, Israeli intelligence and the Israeli government.

At the same time, Israel’s leading investigative journalist, Yoav Yitzhak, revealed an internal strategic memo issued by Olmert’s “Kadima” political party to all 29 Kadima members of Israel’s Knesset parliament – to blame the Israeli defense forces for the failure, not Israel’s political leadership.

Over the next week, the Israeli reservists and families of the 118 Israeli soldiers killed in last summer’s conflict plan new mass demonstrations to demand that the government resign as a result of the war commission’s findings, which place direct responsibility for dysfunctional behavior during the war on the back of the full Israeli government, especially on Olmert and on Peretz.

These planned demos will not reflect a fringe element in Israeli public opinion. Polls taken after Olmert’s war commission findings were published show that 65 percent of the Israeli population demands that the Israeli government resign as a result of the findings of Olmert’s handpicked commission of inquiry into the summer 2006 war in Lebanon.

David Bedein can be reached at His Web site is

©The Bulletin 2007


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David Bedein
David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.