Olmert to Winograd Commission: IDF let itself down
Olmert, Peretz, Halutz testimonies before commission that probed war's failures published; according to transcript, prime minister said he decided to launch war after seeing how 'Lebanese quagmire was closing in on us', blamed ‘commanding philosophy, perception’ during war for failure to achieve goals
According to the transcript of his testimony, Olmert expressed his confusion upon taking up the reigns of premiership following the hospitalization of former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
“Amidst all the drama that came along with it, the turmoil, the political upheaval ... - you have to take charge of things, there are elections in two and a half months, and you are heading a party, and you have to establish a party, and it’s not clear, will he return, will he not return, will he recover, will he not
Olmert said in his testimony that he was primarily occupied with threats from the North prior to the war, adding that he decided to launch the war after seeing how the "Lebanse quagmire was closing in on us".
“In all the commotion I am constantly dealing with one subject – the North. The other commands are also raging … and I say, take me to the Northern Command, because I felt that out of the North, the threat shall break forth.”
The prime minister continued to say that “we knew in advance that they (Hizbullah) would bomb our home-front targets and we could make only one decision - either we do not act at all or we act straight away. I think we had no other choice but to act immediately."
Olmert was asked if there were no other options and replied, "Yes, there was another option, but this was preferable. As far as international support it could not have waited."
'Army let itself down'
Olmert pointed a finger at the military echelon, saying, "I think the army let itself down", but was careful to distinguish between the soldiers, who were “outstanding”, and the commanders.
According to him, there was “something faulty in the commanding philosophy, in the commanding perception … they all proved their courage in battle … but something in the forces’ operational perception, something in the perception of control over the forces, wasn’t what we expected – and there is no doubt that was what caused the gap between our ability to achieve, and what we actually did achieve”.
'Nothing was accomplished'
In his testimony, the defense minister explained that he went into the war fairly confident of the military’s ability.
"On July 12 (the first day of the war), I was not presented with a situation that the army had not trained enough or that there was any problem with the army's preparedness," Peretz said.
Peretz told the commission he had estimated that “the whole campaign would last 10-14 days.
"I assumed that the international community would not give us any longer than that, although I thought that the longer we give our forces to operate, the more we will weaken Hizbullah," said the defense minister.
Former chief of staff Halutz told the commission regarding the duration of the war that "33 days was longer than it should have been. Definitely."
"I am aware of it and I think that in the end the fact that nothing was accomplished was the most evident failure," Halutz said.
Regarding the duration of the war, Olmert said, “If the initial operations were carried out properly, a ground assault would have been avoided.”
Olmert claimed that prior to the war, the former chief of staff told him, “You have a quality military, strong and prepared. We can fulfill all missions.” Olmert said he couldn’t have known that wasn’t true.
Retired Judge Winograd questioned the prime minister about his visit to the General Staff several days before the war began.
“They must have told you that the regular army forces were not training, that their only experience was in routine security measures in the West Bank. Did you hear all of that?” Winograd asked.
“Yes, I heard it, but I didn’t pay it much attention – you know, the security establishment always arrives at budget meetings saying, ‘we don’t have enough money for this and that’. I always thought those types of things should be treated with a certain amount of hesitance,” Olmert said.