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August 29, 2006
Olmert Dodges Independent Review Of War

Ehud Olmert has rejected calls for an independent investigation into the leadership and management of the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, opting to stick with an internal review of the conflict split between three different government committees. Dan Izenberg writes in today's Jerusalem Post that the dodge will fool no one and may increase calls for the beleaguered Prime Minister's removal:

The Movement for Quality Government and the head of the army reservists protest movement have already declared they will continue their campaign for an independent state committee of inquiry headed by a judge. Meanwhile, University of Haifa law professor Emmanuel Gross described Olmert's proposal as a "cover-up committee." There will be many critics, and not only from the political opposition, that will agree.

The second Lebanese War raised questions regarding three major issues: the IDF's preparedness for and conduct of the war, the government's definition of its war aims and its decision-making process; and the manner in which the government and the local authorities prepared the home front for the war.
Since these three issues are interrelated, the obvious and most effective thing to do would have been to examine all of them within an integrated and holistic framework.

Instead, Olmert has chosen to establish three separate committees which have no clear links of communication, information-sharing or data analysis among them.

I have no special love for independent investigations. We just discovered -- again -- how dangerous one can become in strong political storms. Investigators and independent panels who have no accountability can take advantage of political firestorms to commit any number of abuses. They can also deliver a conclusion that fits their own political goals rather than reality or truth.

However, that being said, the solution Olmert wants seems designed for failure. Having three committees reviewing the same war but with no coordination gives one the worst of all situations: overlapping jurisdictions and bureaucratic jealousies. The resultant analysis will be fragmented and probably contradictory and will submerge Israeli politics into recriminations and conspiracy theories for years.

The only reason a politician would opt for such a scenario is to keep people from discovering the truth, and that indicates that Olmert knows a competent investigation would bury him.

I doubt the Israelis need a blue-ribbon panel to conclude that Olmert and his staff bungled the opportunity in Lebanon. The IDF troops themselves have carried that message back home, much to Olmert's chagrin. The troops performed well, but the leadership couldn't decide what kind of war they wanted to wage. They started by cautiously escalating during the first two weeks, allowing Hezbollah to adapt and redeploy early. Only when time ran out on Israel did they appear serious about actually fighting to win, and instead of the weeks Olmert's team said it would take to reach the Litani, they made it in hours when they finally took off the gloves.

The cease-fire allowed Olmert off the hook to some degree, and the end result actually favored Israel, as I have written before. However, the Israelis had the opportunity to do so much more, an opportunity that Olmert and his team wasted. Their war response took Hassan Nasrallah by surprise, and they should have exploited that in the first hours of the campaign. Olmert does not want that verdict to come from an independent panel, but Israelis won't be fooled by his musical-chairs committees. They know he blew Israel's big chance to strike a mortal blow to Hezbollah, and now they know he knows it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 29, 2006 5:48 AM

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