Olmert must go

PM lost moral authority to lead Israel in light of war conduct, attitude to Winograd report

Uzi Dayan
Published: 01.28.08, 16:25 / Israel Opinion

The struggle for implementation of the Second Lebanon War lessons entered its decisive phase, and requires answers for questions that have been raised in the fierce and important public debate. Below are comments on the main issues:

Personal accountability – Something that Olmert is unwilling to accept. In my experience, taking responsibility for one’s actions is the basis and pre-condition for worthy leadership. This doesn’t mean that every failure must lead to resignation. Yet a prime minister who ignores the conclusions of the Winograd Commission’s interim report – a commission which he appointed himself yet declared that he would not resign whatever the conclusions – loses the moral right to lead and send people to war. Without personal accountability, justice shall not be done and the lessons of the last war shall not be implemented.

Ehud Barak – What do they want from him? He was not the defense minister during the war. That’s true. Yet after the publication of the Winograd Commission’s interim report he said: “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should draw personal conclusions and resign, as did Dan Halutz and Amir Peretz…if he does not do so until the publication of the full report, we will be forced to end our partnership with Olmert and work to establish a new government in the current Knesset, or alternately, set a date for elections.” Barak is not being asked to resign, but rather, to display leadership and deliver on his promise. I expect elected officials such as Barak, Livni and Mofaz to prove now that they are the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Full disclosure – Is the struggle to topple Olmert political or not? Of course it’s political! The demand to send a prime minister home is not a real estate issue, but rather, a political one, and a decision on this issue is impossible and improper anywhere else but in the political arena. Yet this is a moral struggle that cuts across parties and ideologies. The reservists and regular troops who died in the war were not asked which party they voted for when they were called up, and now we see politicians who are fighting for their seats lashing out at company commanders, trying to stir arguments among reserve soldiers, and label the struggle as “political” – yet we shall not shy away from a political effort, the opposite is true: This is the only way for us to change Israeli politics.

The people’s wish – What does the public want? Most of the public (more than 70%) says that should the Winograd Commission rule that Olmert failed, he will have to resign. The Winograd Commission already ruled this in its interim report, which will be a part of the full report. Yet Olmert disregards the public, most of which thinks he should be going home. The moment the public would wake up and join the struggle, its elected representatives will end their petty political calculations and send the prime minister home.

Does the past year and a half have no meaning? It has a meaning, which further worsens the mistrust in the prime minister who personally failed in the war. He failed in taking decisions on the national level when he negligently embarked on the war without understanding its essence. We can also see failures in utilizing the IDF: The failure to call up reserve forces on time and the failed and indecisive utilization of ground forces. The Israeli home front was abandoned when a state of emergency was not declared fully or on time, and a minister responsible for the state of the home front was not appointed. The moral decline also came into play during that period. Olmert appointed his “good friend” as a finance minister, and in order to do that he appointed an inexperienced and uninformed defense minister

Winograd – and what comes next? Whatever the political establishment decides. The Israeli Knesset and government is where the results of the struggle will be decided, and this is how it should be in a law-abiding democratic state. Yet Mr. Ehud Olmert personally failed as prime minister during the Second Lebanon War. He is unable to fix what he ruined and he continues to morally corrupt Israel. Therefore, he must immediately resign upon the publication of the Winograd Report. If he fails to do so, government and Knesset members must fulfill their national duty and fire him.

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