Up until yesterday evening the partial Winograd report troubled three people. As of this morning it needs to trouble us all. Not to trouble. To frighten. To shock.
Because according to the conclusions in the partial report, the failings in question were no mean failures. It is a true wonder that this country still exists. Because a country whose prime minister failed in exercising good judgment, whose defense minister failed to perform his duties, whose chief of staff presented a false representation and contributed greatly to the flaws and failures, whose General Staff suffered from a dearth of creativity and whose government voted without knowing what it was voting for-that is a country that has been forsaken. It is a country without leadership. It is a country that was let down by its army. It is a country whose government is miserable and whose ministers are not worthy of their status.
Judge Winograd might have placed a loaded gun on Olmert’s desk, but he exposed a ticking bomb beneath our feet. We should not leave the soul-searching only to Olmert, Peretz and Halutz. We all need to do soul searching. Because we are not just talking about people who failed. The entire system failed. The preconception failed. The security conception failed. The premise that Israel would not begin a war failed. The faith that we would win every campaign shattered. It is sad to think, even insulting, but Nasrallah’s patronizing appeal to our novice leadership on the first day of the war, telling them to think twice before they went to war-that appeal was the essence of the committee’s recommendations.
The tragedy is that those are the things on which we are going to focus. On the questions of which individual is in which position. How can Olmert continue to serve even a single day in his job after what the committee said, and how much chutzpah the defense minister needs to stay in the Defense Ministry after what the committee had to say about him, and how aloof and arrogant Halutz is at Harvard towards the Israeli journalists.
And so, one after the other, we’ll beat them over the head with a stick. Because otherwise, what are we supposed to do with this report? Where will we channel our loss of faith? And who can replace Olmert? Livni, who is even more inexperienced that he was? Ayalon, who never served even a single day as a cabinet minister? Barak, who was cited by the committee as sharing responsibility for the failings, or maybe Netanyahu, who has only become the leading candidate thanks to a state of leadership chaos? And if we replace Olmert with Livni or Netanyahu, what difference will that make when the government is the same government, the army is the same army, and the perception of reality remains unaltered?
It is precisely on that point that the Prime Minister’s Bureau will focus in the next number of days. The alternative. Or, more accurately, the lack of an alternative. The report, his men will say, is very grave. Olmert would never treat it flippantly. But the question is whether under these circumstances the prime minister needs to dodge responsibility or perhaps on the contrary, that now is the time to enlist and to rectify. The question, his spokesmen will say, is not whether Olmert survives or not but whether the State of Israel is capable of taking the report and fixing that which needs to be fixed.
Olmert yesterday was determined not to resign. No one who knows him was surprised. Even though the severity of the report sent him and his aides into shock, it was clear to everyone that this prime minister wasn’t a quitter. It isn’t that he doesn’t understand that there were failures. He is an intelligent man. He just does not think that if he goes the problems will be solved. His fundamental assumption is his certainty that he is better than any of the others. Who can lead better, he says to himself scornfully, Bibi? Tzippi?
Olmert’s speech in the wake of the report was a gloomy end to a gloomy report. Olmert’s face said everything. His eyes were like the eyes of a person with a terminal disease. I do not intend to resign, he said. But it is unlikely whether even he believes that he will survive until the final report. Not because of the coalition. Not because of his party. Not even because of the demonstrations that still await him. Simply because there is no other possibility. Simply because we have no where else to channel our lack of faith.
This piece appeared in Yediot Aharomot on May 1st, 2007