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PRELUDE TO WINOGRAD

Knesset Report: 'IDF Entered Second Lebanon War Unprepared & Without Operational Plan - Over-depended On Air Power To Suppress Hezbollah Rocketing Without Preparing Significant Ground Operation'

Reserve Soldiers Interrupt Knesset Presentation Demanding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Resignation

A group of IDF reserve soldiers interrupted the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee during its presentation of a report into the Second Lebanon War of 2005. They protested committee members focusing on military aspects of the war while not dealing with the government's responsibility. Although scathing in its criticism, the report itself revealed no surprises - the IDF was ill prepared to go to war after Hezbollah guerrillas crossed the northern border killing 7 soldiers and abducting 2 others while rocketing Galilee with Katyushas. But above and beyond the Hezbollah war, IsraCast says the report came against the background of a similar situation evolving in the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip where Palestinian terrorists continuously rocket the Israeli town of Sderot.

'It's a cop-out, Olmert resign!' - shouted the reserve soldiers who felt the government and the IDF top brass had fumbled the war against Hezbollah. Now they were outraged that the new Knesset report centered on the military aspects without assigning political responsibility to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Committee Chairman Zachi Hanegbi of Olmert's Kadima party defended the report saying it also reflected the political echelon's failings - there was enough blame to go around. And he added the Winograd enquiry would soon present its final findings.

Committee Chairman - Eliahu Winograd

This being the case, the spotlight will now focus on Winograd to present the country with a clear and no holds barred version of how the political leadership failed in its conduct of the war - who bears prime responsibility? Obviously the prime minister. In any case, although former Defense Minister Amir Peretz and IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz resigned after the war, Olmert has vowed not to quit. Reacting to the Knesset report, the current Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the political leadership at the time bore overall responsibility for the war. Recently, Barak was been non- committal about his promise to resign after the final Winograd report signaling that he may not. However, Barak's latest comment has added more uncertainty- in other words the Labor party leader is keeping his options open waiting to see how serious it is in criticizing Olmert.

Barak keeping his options open. That's not good enough for Opposition leader Bibi Netanyahu of Likud. Netanyahu challenged Barak to put his money where his mouth is and bolt the government after the Winograd report later this month. Channel Two TV reports that Barak has been in touch with rivals of Olmert in Kadima trying to ascertain if there might be a move to oust the PM in his party. In any case, speaking to his Labor caucus in the Knesset, the Defense Minister added that the IDF failings are being corrected.

The Knesset report came against the backdrop of a similar situation evolving in the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. Palestinians there have been building up their arsenals of weapons as well as rockets which they launch continuously at the Israeli town of Sderot. Although the IDF carries out limited and air and ground strikes to suppress the terror attacks it has not gone all out in launching a major ground operation to cope with the looming threat. And also like Hezbollah in south Lebanon, the Hamas regime in Gaza is being funded and trained by Iran.

Chairman Zachi Hanegbi said his committee has not yet discussed whether to recommend to the government that it give the green light for the IDF to re- invade Gaza to root out the Iranian backed threat. But Hanegbi adds that a majority of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee now support an IDF ground offensive to prevent a repetition of the Hezbollah buildup in south Lebanon that caught the IDF and the Israeli government napping.

David Essing

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