Eliahu Wingrad
Will Monday’s publication of the much awaited Winograd Report be reminiscent of Ernest Hemmingway’s classic novel: For Whom the Bell Tolls? The long prepared document prepared by a very distinguished committee headed by former Tel Aviv District Judge Eliahu Wingrad (pictured), is supposed to formally point out the faults of the Israeli government during last summer’s Lebanon II war, in which more than 230 Israeli soldiers and civilians lost their lives and the country’s entire northern region from Haifa and Afula onwards were bombarded during 34 days of constant Hezbollah launched missile attacks.

These attacks, which caused serious damage to many of Israeli towns and cities, including Haifa, also turned the country’s economy upside down and caused more than a million Israeli citizens to be either confined to very unpleasant conditions in crowded bomb shelters, or turned into refugees in their own land, forced to seek the kind assistance of people like billionaire Arkady Gaydamak, whose tent city in southern Israel gave temporary shelter while a hapless government failed to come to terms with a very unpleasant reality.

The report is expected to note the failures of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defence Minister Amir Peretz, and then IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. But with all of this before us, is there really anything that hasn’t already been figured out by most of the Israeli public? After all, the reserve soldiers who were sent into battle without enough rations, ammunition – even water – do they need a long and very in depth report by a group to retired generals and legal experts to conclude what has already been thought out by nearly everyone with an IQ of at least 75? The report, which took more than five months to complete and at a cost of millions of shekels, is reported to find Olmert responsible for the results of the war, including lack of ability to care for the needs of nearly a fourth of the country’s inhabitants; Peretz’s failures due to his not being qualified for his position as Defense Minister; and Halutz’s failures due to his not having ‘on the ground’ military experience as a field commander (after all flying over a war zone is not the same as having to plow through it as many unprepared conscripts and reserve soldiers found out).

The committee also blames other IDF generals including Gal Hirsch and Udi Adam for their actions, and adds that lack of awareness of Hezbollah activity by former Prime and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, former Defense Ministers Shaul Mofaz and Moshe (Boogie) Ayalon allowed Sheik Hassan Nasrallah to strengthen his organization’s infrastructure in southern Lebanon during the six year period between the May 2,000 IDF pullout and the July 2006 war.

Though other details will most likely be revealed when the report is formally released at 3:30 p.m. on Monday (NOW !!), the resulting fallout to Olmert’s already troubled administration may result in early elections at most, or if not, at least a severe shakeup in Olmert’s cabinet.

Olmert commented recently that he knows he is not a very popular prime minister; and by the time the Winograd Report’s dust has settled, he may discover that his unpopularity is even more intense. After all, a lot of ordinary people were directly involved in this conflict – more than in most other major wars in Israel’s 59 year history.

And from a military point of view, many eyes will now be focused on new IDF Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi to try to set things right in Israel’s armed forces. The only thing is – things have to be set right at the top as well; for as a former U.S. President, Harry S. Truman, once said, regarding ultimate responsibility: “the buck stops here”.