Lebanon war probe accuses Olmert of 'severe failure,' blasts Halutz, Peretz


By Yossi Verter, Mazal Mualem and Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondents, and Agencies

The partial report by a government-appointed committee probing the Second Lebanon War on Monday accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of "severe failure" in exercising judgment, responsibility and caution during the outset of the war.

The report, officially released at a 5 P.M. press conference in Jerusalem on Monday, says Olmert acted hastily in leading the country to war last July 12, without having a comprehensive plan.

The prime minister, the report said, "bears supreme and comprehensive responsibility for the decisions of 'his' government and the operations of the army."

But Cabinet Secretary Israel Maimon said after the report was released that the prime minister is not considering resignation.

Olmert also came under criticism for rushed actions at the outset of the war, and for failing to consult with either military or non-military experts.

"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," the report said. "He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the IDF, despite not having experience in external-political and military affairs."

Olmert was also censured for failing to "adapt his plans once it became clear that the assumptions and expectations of Israel's actions were not realistic and were not materializing."

"All of these," the report said, "add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence."

The findings level heavy criticism at Defense Minister Amir Peretz for being unaware of the state of the Israel Defense Forces, even though he should have been.

Peretz "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 deficiencies, the report states, "he made his decisions during this period without systemic consultations with experienced political and professional experts, including outside the security establishment."

In fact, the panel found, "his serving as minister of defense during the war impaired Israel's ability to respond well to its challenges."

Dan Halutz, who was IDF chief of staff at the time, was criticized for entering the war "unprepared," and for failing to inform the cabinet of the true state of the IDF ahead of the ground operation.

According to the findings, the army and its chief of staff "were not prepared for the event of the abduction despite recurring alerts."

The panel also found that Halutz had failed to "present to the political leaders the internal debates within the IDF concerning the fit between the stated goals and the authorized modes of actions."

The head of the committee, retired judge Eliyahu Winograd, in reading the conclusions of the inquiry, said that the outcome of the war would have been better had Olmert, Halutz and Peretz acted differently.

Winograd said that Halutz displayed a lack of professionalism and of judgment. The former army chief bears more blame, he said, knowing that Olmert and Peretz were inexperienced in military matters. He added that Halutz also reacted impulsively to the kidnapping of the two reserve soldiers by Hezbollah, which sparked the war.

He said that, despite a lack of experience, Olmert did not request help, or question the plan put to him. Peretz also came under similar criticism, for not inspecting the war plan with sufficient care.

In fact, said Winograd, some of the war's objectives were unattainable and the leadership lacked creativity.

"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," the report said.

The committee also leveled criticism at the entire government, saying that the cabinet voted to go to war without understanding the implications of such a decision.

According to the report, "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."

The panel is considering adding personal recommendations in its final report, which is due out in the summer.