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The long awaited Winograd Committee report is finally out. The conclusions published in the 500 page time should be no surprise to any Mid-East observer. The report called the Second Lebanon War “great and severe missed opportunity.” and the final 60 hours of the war in which dozens of IDF soldiers were killed a waste, saying it “did not achieve any military objectives nor did it fulfill its potential.”

The real mistakes behind the War was in communications and judgment. While the committee did not make any political judgments, it is clear to this reader that Olmert’s lack of clear and definitive thought process should preclude him from remaining in office.

Below is the full text of the Winograd Committee Press Release

Winograd Committee Press Release – January 30, 2008 January 30, 2008
Press Release
Good Evening. 1. About an hour ago we submitted the Final Report of the Commission to
Investigate the Lebanon Campaign in 2006 to the Prime minister, Mr. Ehud
Olmert, and to the Minister of Defense, Mr. Ehud Barak. 2. The task given to us was difficult and complex. It involved the
examination of events in 34 days of fighting, and the scrutiny of events
before the war, since the IDF had left Lebanon in 2000. This covered
extensive, charged and complex facts, unprecedented in any previous
Commission of Inquiry. 3. The fact that the Government of Israel opted for such an examination, and
that the army conducted a large number of inquires of a variety of military
events, are a sign of strength, and an indication that the political and
military leaders of Israel are willing to expose themselves to critical
review and to painful but required mending. 4. We have included in the classified version of the Report all the relevant
facts we have found concerning the 2nd Lebanon war, systematically and in a
chronological order. This presentation of the factual basis was an important
part of our work. It is reasonable to assume that no single decision maker
had access to a similar factual basis. In this task we had a unique
advantage over others who have written about this war, since we had access
to a lot of primary and comprehensive material, and the opportunity to
clarify the facts by questioning many witnesses, commanders and soldiers,
including bereaved families. 5. For obvious reasons, the unclassified Report does not include the many
facts that cannot be revealed for reasons of protecting the state’s security
and foreign affairs. We tried, nonetheless, to balance between the wish to
present the public with a meaningful picture of the events and the needs of
security. We should note that we did not take the mere fact that some data
has already been published in the media as a reason for including it in our
unclassified Report. 6. We, the members of the Commission, acted according to the main objectives
for which the Commission was established – to respond to the bad feelings of
the Israeli public of a crisis and disappointment caused by the results of
the 2nd Lebanon war, and from the way it was managed by the political and
military echelons; and the wish to draw lessons from the failings of the war
and its flaws, and to repair what is required, quickly and resolutely. We
regarded as most important to investigate deeply what had happened, as a key
to drawing lessons for the future, and their implementation. 7. This conception of our role was one of the main reasons for our decision
not to include in the Final Report personal conclusions and recommendations.
We believe that the primary need for improvements applies to the structural
and systemic malfunctioning revealed in the war – on all levels.
Nonetheless, it should be stressed that the fact we refrained from imposing
personal responsibility does not imply that no such responsibility exists.
We also wish to repeat our statement from the Interim Report: We will not
impose different standards of responsibility to the political and the
military echelons, or to persons of different ranks within them. 8. Let us emphasize: when we imposed responsibility on a system, an echelon
or a unit, we did not imply that the responsibility was only or mainly of
those who headed it at the time of the war. Often, such responsibility
stemmed from a variety of factors outside the control of those at the head.
In addition, a significant part of the responsibility for the failures and
flaws we have found lies with those who had been in charge of preparedness
and readiness in the years before the war. 9. The purpose of this press release is not to sum up the Final Report.
Rather, it is to present its highlights. The Report itself includes
discussions of many important issues, which are an inseparable part of the
Report, its conclusions and recommendations. 10. In the Final Report we dealt mainly with the events of the period after
the initial decision to go to war, which we had discussed in the Interim
Report. Yet the events of the period covered by the Final Report took place
under the shadow of the constraints created by the decision to go to war,
with all its failings and flaws. We want to stress that we stand behind everything we said in the Interim
Report, and the two parts of the Report complement each other. 11. Overall, we regard the 2nd Lebanon war as a serious missed opportunity.
Israel initiated a long war, which ended without its clear military victory.
A semi-military organization of a few thousand men resisted, for a few
weeks, the strongest army in the Middle East, which enjoyed full air
superiority and size and technology advantages. The barrage of rockets aimed
at Israel’s civilian population lasted throughout the war, and the IDF did
not provide an effective response to it. The fabric of life under fire was
seriously disrupted, and many civilians either left their home temporarily
or spent their time in shelters. After a long period of using only standoff
fire power and limited ground activities, Israel initiated a large scale
ground offensive, very close to the Security Council resolution imposing a
cease fire. This offensive did not result in military gains and was not
completed. These facts had far-reaching implications for us, as well as for
our enemies, our neighbors, and our friends in the region and around the
world. 12. In the period we examined in the Final Report – from July 18, 2006, to
August 14, 2006- again troubling findings were revealed, some of which had
already been mentioned in the Interim Report: . We found serious failings and shortcomings in the decision-making
processes and staff-work in the political and the military echelons and
their interface. . We found serious failings and flaws in the quality of preparedness,
decision-making and performance in the IDF high command, especially in the
Army. . We found serious failings and flaws in the lack of strategic thinking and
planning, in both the political and the military echelons. . We found severe failings and flaws in the defence of the civilian
population and in coping with its being attacked by rockets. . These weaknesses resulted in part from inadequacies of preparedness and
strategic and operative planning which go back long before the 2nd Lebanon
war. 13. The decision made in the night of July 12th – to react (to the
kidnapping) with immediate and substantive military action, and to set for
it ambitious goals – limited Israel’s range of options. In fact, after the
initial decision had been made, Israel had only two main options, each with
its coherent internal logic, and its set of costs and disadvantages. The
first was a short, painful, strong and unexpected blow on Hezbollah,
primarily through standoff fire-power. The second option was to bring about
a significant change of the reality in the South of Lebanon with a large
ground operation, including a temporary occupation of the South of Lebanon
and ‘cleaning’ it of Hezbollah military infrastructure. 14. The choice between these options was within the exclusive political
discretion of the government; however, the way the original decision to go
to war had been made; the fact Israel went to war before it decided which
option to select, and without an exit strategy – all these constituted
serious failures, which affected the whole war. Responsibility for these
failures lay, as we had stressed in the Interim Report, on both the
political and the military echelons. 15. After the initial decision to use military force, and to the very end of
the war, this period of ‘equivocation’ continued, with both the political
and the military echelon not deciding between the two options: amplifying
the military achievement by a broad military ground offensive, or abstaining
from such a move and seeking to end the war quickly. This ‘equivocation’ did
hurt Israel. Despite awareness of this fact, long weeks passed without a
serious discussion of these options, and without a decision – one way or the
other – between them. 16. In addition to avoiding a decision about the trajectory of the military
action, there was a very long delay in the deployment necessary for an
extensive ground offensive, which was another factor limiting Israel’s
freedom of action and political flexibility: Till the first week of August,
Israel did not prepare the military capacity to start a massive ground
operation. 17. As a result, Israel did not stop after its early military achievements,
and was ‘dragged’ into a ground operation only after the political and
diplomatic timetable prevented its effective completion. The responsibility
for this basic failure in conducting the war lies at the doorstep of both
the political and the military echelons. 18. The overall image of the war was a result of a mixture of flawed conduct
of the political and the military echelons and the interface between them,
of flawed performance by the IDF, and especially the ground forces, and of
deficient Israeli preparedness. Israel did not use its military force well
and effectively, despite the fact that it was a limited war initiated by
Israel itself. At the end of the day, Israel did not gain a political
achievement because of military successes; rather, it relied on a political
agreement, which included positive elements for Israel, which permitted it
to stop a war which it had failed to win. 19. This outcome was primarily caused by the fact that, from the very
beginning, the war has not been conducted on the basis of deep understanding
of the theatre of operations, of the IDF’s readiness and preparedness, and
of basic principles of using military power to achieve a political and
diplomatic goal. 20. All in all, the IDF failed, especially because of the conduct of the
high command and the ground forces, to provide an effective military
response to the challenge posed to it by the war in Lebanon, and thus failed
to provide the political echelon with a military achievement that could have
served as the basis for political and diplomatic action. Responsibility for
this outcomes lies mainly with the IDF, but the misfit between the mode of
action and the goals determined by the political echelon share
responsibility. 21. We should note that, alongside the failures in the IDF performance,
there were also important military achievements. Special mention should go
to the great willingness of the soldiers, especially reserve soldiers, to
serve and fight in the war, as well as the many instances of heroism,
courage, self-sacrifice and devotion of many commanders and soldiers. 22. The air force should be congratulated on very impressive achievements in
this war. However, there were those in the IDF high command, joined by some
in the political echelon, who entertained a baseless hope that the
capabilities of the air force could prove decisive in the war. In fact, the
impressive achievements of the air force were necessarily limited, and were
eroded by the weaknesses in the overall performance of the IDF. 23. The “Hannit” episode colored to a large extent the whole performance of
the Navy, despite the fact that it made a critical contribution to the naval
blockade, and provided the Northern Command with varied effective support of
its fighting. 24. We should also note that the war had significant diplomatic
achievements. SC resolution 1701, and the fact it was adopted unanimously,
were an achievement for Israel. This conclusion stands even if it turns out
that only a part of the stipulations of the resolution were implemented or
will be implemented, and even if it could have been foreseen that some of
them would not be implemented. This conclusion also does not depend on the
intentions or goals of the powers that supported the resolution. 25. We note, however, that we have seen no serious staff work on Israeli
positions in the negotiations. This situation improved in part when the team
headed by the prime minister’s head of staff was established. The team
worked efficiently and with dedication, professionalism and coordination.
This could not compensate, however, for the absence of preparatory staff
work and discussions in the senior political echelon. 26. This fact may have much significance to the way Israel conducts
negotiations, and to the actual content of the arrangements reached. In such
negotiations, decisions are often made that may have far-reaching
implications on Israel’s interests, including the setting of precedents. 27. The staff work done in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning the
adoption of a favorable resolution in the Security Council was, in the main,
quick, systematic and efficient. At the same time, for a variety of reasons,
it did not reflect clear awareness of the essential need to maintain an
effective relationship between military achievements and diplomatic
activities. 28. We now turn to the political and military activity concerning the ground
operation at the end of the war. This is one of the central foci of public
debate. 29. True, in hindsight, the large ground operation did not achieve its goals
of limiting the rocket fire and changing the picture of the war. It is not
clear what the ground operation contributed to speeding up the diplomatic
achievement or improving it. It is also unclear to what extent starting the
ground offensive affected the reactions of the government of Lebanon and
Hezbollah to the ceasefire. 30. Nonetheless, it is important to stress that the evaluation of these
decisions should not be made with hindsight. It cannot depend on the
achievements or the costs these decisions in fact had. The evaluation must
be based only on the reasons for the operation, and its risks and prospects
as they were known – or as they should have been known – when it was decided
upon. Moreover, it is impossible to evaluate the ground operation at the end
of the war without recalling the developments that preceded it and the
repeated delays in the adoption of the Security Council resolution; and as a
part of the overall conduct of the war. 31. Against this background, we make the following findings on the main
decisions: . The cabinet decision of August 9th – to approve in principle the IDF plan,
but to authorize the PM and the MOD to decide if and when it should be
activated, according to the diplomatic timetable – was almost inevitable,
giving the Israeli government necessary military and political flexibility. . The decision to start in fact the ground operation was within the
political and professional discretion of its makers, on the basis of the
facts before them. The goals of the ground operation were legitimate, and
were not exhausted by the wish to hasten or improve the diplomatic
achievement. There was no failure in that decision in itself, despite its
limited achievements and its painful costs. . Both the position of the Prime minister – who had preferred to avoid the
ground operation – and the position of the Minister of Defense – who had
thought it would have served Israel’s interest to go for it – had been taken
on the merits and on the basis of evidence. Both enjoyed serious support
among the members of the general staff of the IDF and others. Even if both
statesmen took into account political and public concerns – a fact we cannot
ascertain – we believe that they both acted out of a strong and sincere
perception of what they thought at the time was Israel’s interest. 32. We want to stress: The duty to make these difficult decisions was the
political leaders’. The sole test of these decisions is public and
political. At the same time, we also note that: . We have not found within either the political or the military echelons a
serious consideration of the question whether it was reasonable to expect
military achievements in 60 hours that could have contributed meaningfully
to any of the goals of the operation; . We have not found that the political echelon was aware of the details of
the fighting in real time, and we have not seen a discussion, in either the
political or the military echelons, of the issue of stopping the military
operation after the Security Council resolution was adopted; . We have not seen an explanation of the tension between the great effort to
get additional time to conclude the first stage of the planned ground
operation and the decisions not to go on fighting until the ceasefire
itself. 34. A description of failures in the conduct of war may be regarded as
harming Israel. There will be those who may use our findings to hurt Israel
and its army. We nonetheless point out these failures and shortcomings
because we are certain that only in this way Israel may come out of this
ordeal strengthened. We are pleased that processes of repair have already
started. We recommend a deep and systematic continuation of such processes.
It is exclusively in the hands of Israeli leaders and public to determine
whether, when facing challenges in the future, we will come to them more
prepared and ready, and whether we shall cope with them in a more serious
and responsible way than the way the decision-makers had acted – in the
political and the military echelons — in the 2nd Lebanon war. 35. Our recommendations contain suggestions for systemic and deep changes in
the modalities of thinking and acting of the political and military echelons
and their interface, in both routine and emergency, including war. These are
deep and critical processes. Their significance should not be obscured by
current affairs, local successes or initial repairs. A persistent and
prolonged effort, on many levels, will be needed in order to bring about the
essential improvements in the ways of thinking and acting of the
political-military systems. 36. For these reasons we would like to caution against dangers which might
upset plans and delay required change processes, and thus produce dangerous
results: . Fear of criticism in case of failure may lead to defensive reactions,
working by the book, and abstention from making resolute decisions and
preferring non-action. Such behavior is undesirable and also dangerous. . In a dynamic complex reality, one should not prepare better for the last
war. It is also essential not to limit oneself to superficial action,
designed to create an appearance that flaws had been corrected. . It is also essential not to focus exclusively on coping with dangers, but
to combine readiness for threat scenarios with an active seeking of
opportunities.
. When speaking on learning, one should take into account that enemies, too,
are learning their lessons.
37. The 2nd Lebanon War has brought again to the foreground for thought and
discussion issues that some parts of Israeli society had preferred to
suppress: Israel cannot survive in this region, and cannot live in it in
peace or at least non-war, unless people in Israel itself and in its
surroundings believe that Israel has the political and military leadership,
military capabilities, and social robustness that will allow her to deter
those of its neighbors who wish to harm her, and to prevent them – if
necessary through the use of military force – from achieving their goal. 38. These truths do not depend on one’s partisan or political views. Israel
must – politically and morally – seek peace with its neighbors and make
necessary compromises. At the same time, seeking peace or managing the
conflict must come from a position of social, political and military
strength, and through the ability and willingness to fight for the state,
its values and the security of its population even in the absence of peace. 39. These truths have profound and far-reaching implications for many
dimensions of life in Israel and the ways its challenges are managed. Beyond
examining the way the Lebanon War was planned and conducted; beyond the
examination of flaws in decision-making and performance that had been
revealed in it – important as they may be; these are the central questions
that the Lebanon war has raised. These are issues that lie at the very
essence of our existence here as a Jewish and democratic state. These are
the questions we need to concentrate on. 40. We hope that our findings and conclusions in the Interim and the Final
Reports will bring about not only a redress of failings and flaws, but help
Israeli society, its leaders and thinkers, to advance the long-term goals of
Israel, and develop the appropriate ways to address the challenges and
respond to them. 41. We are grateful for the trust put in us when this difficult task was
given to us. If we succeed in facilitating rectification of the failings we
have identified – this will be our best reward.

Winograd: Final ground op ‘did not achieve military goals’, but approving it was essential step
By Haaretz Service

The Winograd Committee released its final report on the Second Lebanon War on Wednesday, saying the decision in principle to launch a major ground offensive in the war’s waning hours was essential, despite the fact that the offensive failed to achieve any objectives.

The committee called the war, which Israel luanched against Hezbollah on July 12, 2006 after the militant group abducted two Israel Defense Forces soldiers and killed three others, a “great and severe missed opportunity.”

“Israel embarked on a prolonged war that it initiated, which ended without a clear Israeli victory from a military standpoint,” Justice (ret.) Eliyahu Winograd told a press conference in Jerusalem.

“A quasi-military organization withstood the strongest army in the Middle East for weeks,” he said.

“Hezbollah rocket fire on the Israeli home front continued throughout the war, and the IDF failed to provide an effective response,” he continued. “Daily life was disrupted, residents left their homes and entered bomb shelters.”

“These results had far-reaching consequences for us and our enemies,” he continued.

Winograd assailed the final, large-scale ground operation launched in the final 60 hours of the war in which dozens of IDF soldiers were killed, saying it “did not achieve any military objectives nor did it fulfill its potential.”

“The ground operation did not reduce the Katyusha fire nor did it achieve significant accomplishments, and its role in accelerating or improving the political settlement is unclear,” said Winograd. “Also unclear is how it affected the Lebanese government and Hezbollah regarding the cease-fire.”

“The manner in which the ground operation was conducted raises the most difficult of questions,” he continued.

However, the panel found that the decisions behind the offensive were acceptable.

“The decision in principle on August 9 to approve a ground operation subject to the diplomatic timetable was practically essential,” said Winograd. “It provided Israel with necessary diplomatic flexibility.”

“The decision to actually launch the ground operation was within the framework of decision makers’ diplomatic and professional judgment based on the information they had available,” the retired justice continued. “The objectives of the military push were legitimate and were not confined solely to accelerating or improving a political settlement.”

“There was no failure in the decision itself, despite the limited accomplishments and painful price,” he said.

Winograd: Severe faults in the decision-making process

The panel nonetheless found “severe failures and faults in the decision making process, both in the political echelon and the military echelon.”

“The failures began long before the Second Lebanon War,” said Winograd. “Ambitious goals were chosen for the war, after which Israel was left with only two main alternatives – the first was a short, severe strike [on Hezbollah], the second was to fundamentally alter the reality in southern Lebanon through a wide-scale ground operation.”

“The manner in which the original decision to go to war was made, without discussing the alternatives, and the manner in which Israel embarked on the war prior to determining which of the alternatives it had chosen, or an exit strategy – these were severe failures that impacted the entire war, which were contributed to by both the political and the military echelon,” said Winograd.

“The indecisiveness continued into the war itself,” the retired justice continued. “There was no proper discussion or decision on the war’s objectives for several weeks.”

“There was also a serious delay in preparing for a wide-scale ground operation, reducing Israel’s options,” he said. “The result was that Israel did not make do with maximizing immediate military achievements, but rather was dragged into a ground offensive only after a cease-fire [decision] made it impossible to effectively fulfill its potential. Both top military and political leaders are responsible for this.”

The committee handed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and the IDF copies of the 500-page report, shortly before the press conference in which the panel presented the report’s primary conclusions.

The first, partial Winograd report was released in April 2007 and focused on the opening days of the war. The report found that Olmert and the government had displayed poor decision-making skills and lack of judgment.

It said that, “The decision to respond [to the cross-border attack] with an immediate, intensive military strike was not based on a detailed, comprehensive and authorized military plan…” and that “The primary responsibility for these serious failings rests with the Prime Minister, the [then] minister of defense [Amir Peretz] and the (outgoing) Chief of Staff.”

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