Late Wednesday night, after reading the final Winograd report and listening to retired Justice Eliyahu Winograd speak of "major failures", Prime Minister Ehud Olmert turned to his aides and said – "well guy's we have a lot of work to do. Time to get back to business."
Earlier Wednesday evening, Justice Winograd presented the final report probing the Second Lebanon War to Olmert and to Defense Minister Ehud Barak; and in a press conference held later in the evening – to the public.
The relief in the Prime Minister's Office was more the evident, as Olmert and the PMO's staff watched Winograd's press conference. The prime minister reportedly listened to the justice speak, than uttered "back to work" – referring both to his intentions to study the report further, but mostly to the fact that it granted his government an extension in power.
"The war suffered serious failures and shortcomings in the decision-making processes and staff-work in the political and the military echelons and their interface," said Winograd, but Olmert, relieved that he wasn't politically beheaded in the report, kept his composure.
Those present when the prime minister was watching the press conference, said his response was moderate – not overjoyed pre se, but most certainly relieved.
Olmert than took the time to discuss the press conference with his closest aides: "We talked about what had to be done now. The prime minister made it clear we have a lot of work ahead of us," Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel told Ynet.
'Let the public decide'
Sources in the PMO spoke less of Winograd's harsh comments about the failures of the war, the military, the government and – as said in the interim report – Olmert himself, and more of the satisfaction felt after the prime minister's resignations was not demanded by the commission, but rather left for the Israeli public to decide.
"People can be such bastards," said Olmert to one of his closets aids Wednesday night. "Someone told the media we opened Champagne bottles after he (Winograd) finished speaking. What a rotten thing to do… a prime minister of Israel, who's reading a report dealing with a harsh war, with losses, with failures and tomorrow morning will be dealing with security debates over the Gaza Strip and the Iranian threat – is opening Champagne bottles. That just low… so low."
Nevertheless, the PMO was more than relieved to hear Justice Winograd's words regarding the war's last 60 hours, feeling the PM was finally vindicated of the blood libel he suffered by the opposition, members of the bereaved families and reserve soldiers.
"As someone who has been by Olmert's side in these rough times, I can say he is most relieved by the fact that there are no more doubts, but there's still a big difference between that and being happy," said Yehezkel. "The prime minister will proceed to study the report and implements its lessons.
"The Winograd Commission has spoken and all doubts have been cleared," he added, "but now we have to get on with the implementations of the reports. I know the PM will work to strengthen the military, the National Security Council, and to fix all the other lapse and failures. Winograd may have ended, but the process will continue."
"We’re not smugged, we realize Winograd was just the first part – we still have to deal with the reactions from the political establishment, the media and the public – nothing is over," said sources close to Olmert.
"We are going to do anything, everything possible to fix the failures indicated by the report, while perusing the peace process at the same time. Now that we know the coalition is steady, the prime minister will be able to focus all his efforts on that."