Motti Sharf, the easy-going man who made the connection between the Winograd commission and the world, spent all morning Sunday at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. He was busy in what is termed "staging," preparing the big event set to be held there Monday afternoon. In the past, a report would have been compiled, printed, bound and distributed for public perusal. Today a report is not deemed a serious report if its presentation ceremony is not staged. Everything, even the shortcomings of the war, have to be set in style and staged.
At first they considered a small, modest auditorium. Then they moved into a larger one to make room for the media. The auditorium was designed to look like a court of law. The appointed commission was not a court of law, not even a state commission but it will pose as a court of law for half an hour. Why? To enhance credibility.
Justice Winograd will read out the summary of the report in front of the cameras. The summary will comprise five or six pages, mostly describing the commission's working methodology. The headlines will be kept for the end. Members of the commission will avoid answering questions: They have learned the lessons drawn from the Zeiler Commission's report, the one that investigated the police force. The Zeiler commission didn't have anyone to do their staging, therefore it talked itself ad nauseam. When Winograd ends his reading, members of the commission will silently descend the stage and disappear into the sunset. Had there been background music, their exit would have been picture perfect.
We experienced a failed war during the past summer. It was Israel's most exposed war. We knew in real time almost everything that was said in the cabinet and in the corridors of the General Headquarters; we knew about the mishaps and the foul-ups, about the army's helplessness at the frontlines and the collapse of the home front. We may learn some new details here and there, but overall, it will be hard to surprise us.
We know the expectations given to the public by Olmert, Peretz and Halutz and we know what the results on the ground turned out to be. It wasn't the need for answers that led to the establishment of the Winograd Commission; it was the need for punishment. Thus the focus is on phrasing. We know that Olmert was too hasty in making decisions, that Peretz didn't add or detract anything, and that Halutz was afflicted with aerial arrogance, but words make all the difference.
Let's take Olmert, for example. Apparently the report will state that he was "hasty." A person can live with such a title, unless he was involved in a fatal road accident or a war. Haste is a word that sticks. It will take Olmert years to get rid of it.
Report only partial
Contrary to popular thought, the report about to be publicized is not an interim report. It is a partial report, and there's a big difference. It ends five days after the beginning of the war. The bulk of the erroneous decisions, the majority of the failures and losses were inflicted later on. What does this partial report resemble? It resembles a detailed description of Barbara Streisand's face without mentioning her nose. Or the description of the game between CSKA and Maccabi Tel Aviv that ended in the first half. The decision to present the report in small servings, now the appetizer and then the main course in August, detracts from the report's seriousness.
Yet despite this, the report is a very important milestone in the public struggle seeking accountability for the shortcomings of the war.
There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the public doesn't want Ehud Olmert and it doesn't want Amir Peretz.
The question is how badly it doesn't want them. Will it take to the streets and protest? Judging by the signs, the answer to these questions is negative. Either the people prefer letting the political system go about its business or it has tired of it completely.
The political system will indeed go about its business. In a democratic country a political system cannot survive for long in complete contradiction to the public mood. Olmert believes that in time he will be reborn. He'll replace a few ministers, he will exchange his haste with responsibility, he'll even begin speaking a little slower, and everything will be just fine. His chances aren't great. Only a really dramatic event, the type reminiscent of the bombing of the nuclear plant in Iraq in 1981, would assure his rehabilitation. He has enough nuclear plants to bomb. Unfortunately, the Iranians are much smarter and much more dangerous than Saddam Hussein.
Olmert has been preparing his counter attack for the past two weeks. The spokespersons from Sharon's term in office have been removed from their PR agencies to join Olmert's spokespersons. Kadima was recruited. Slogans have been written and memorized. Had Olmert prepared for the war the way he is preparing for the war over the Winograd report, said one of his aides, perhaps there would have been no commission and no report. If only.