Thursday, 31 January 2008

It's official—Israel lost the war

Israel lost in its war on Lebanon during the summer of 2006, according to the Winograd Committee.

Highlights of the report:

The committee stated that the war was a "major missed opportunity.

"Israel embarked on a prolonged war that it initiated, which ended without a clear Israeli victory.

"A paramilitary organization withstood the strongest army in the Middle East for weeks.

"Hezbollah rocket fire on the Israeli home front continued throughout the war, and the IDF failed to provide an effective response. Daily life was disrupted, residents left their homes and entered bomb shelters.

"These results have far-reaching consequences for us and our enemy.

"The final, large-scale ground operation launched in the final 60 hours of the war "did not achieve any military objectives nor did it fulfill its potential.

"The ground operation did not reduce the Katyusha fire nor did it achieve significant accomplishments, and its role in accelerating or improving the political settlement is unclear. Also unclear is how it affected the Lebanese government and Hezbollah regarding the cease-fire.

"The manner in which the ground operation was conducted raises the most difficult of questions.

"The decision in principle of the security cabinet on August 9 to approve the IDF's recommendation for a ground offensive, subject to the diplomatic time-table, was a practically essential decision. It provided Israel with necessary diplomatic flexibility.

"The decision to actually launch the ground operation was within the framework of decision-makers' political and professional judgment based on the information they had available. The objectives of the military push were legitimate and were not confined solely to accelerating or improving a political settlement.

"There was no failure in the decision itself, despite the limited accomplishments and painful price.

"We are persuaded that both the prime minister and the defense minister operated out of a strong and honest assessment and understanding of what, to them, was seen as necessary for Israel's interests.

The panel "found grave faults and failings in the decision-making process and the preparatory work both in the political and military levels and the interaction between them.

"We found grave faults and failings in the senior military command echelon, particularly in the ground forces, the quality of preparedness and readiness of the forces, and of the execution of orders.

"We found grave faults and failings both in the political and military echelons in the lack of thinking and strategic planning. And we found grave faults and failings in everything concerning the defense of the civilian population and the challenges presented by the blows it suffered.

"Though it was a war of our own initiative and waged in a defined territory, Israel did not use its military power wisely or effectively.

'Israel went to war without discussing alternatives, objectives.

"The failures began long before the Second Lebanon War. Ambitious goals were chosen for the war, after which Israel was left with only two main alternatives—the first was a short, severe strike [on Hezbollah], the second was to fundamentally alter the reality in southern Lebanon through a wide-scale ground operation.

"The manner in which the original decision to go to war was made, without discussing the alternatives, and the manner in which Israel embarked on the war prior to determining which of the alternatives it had chosen, or an exit strategy - these were severe failures that impacted the entire war, which were contributed to by both the political and the military echelon.

"The indecisiveness continued into the war itself. There was no proper discussion or decision on the war's objectives for several weeks.

"There was also a serious delay in preparing for a wide-scale ground operation, reducing Israel's options."

"The result was that Israel did not make do with maximizing immediate military achievements, but rather was dragged into a ground offensive only after a cease-fire [decision] made it impossible to effectively fulfill its potential. Both top military and political leaders are responsible for this."

Haaretz notes that:

The first, partial Winograd report was released in April 2007 found that Israeli premier Ehud Olmert and the government had displayed poor decision-making skills and lack of judgment.

"The decision to respond [to the cross-border attack] with an immediate, intensive military strike was not based on a detailed, comprehensive and authorized military plan..." and that "The primary responsibility for these serious failings rests with the Prime Minister, the [then] minister of defense [Amir Peretz] and the (outgoing) Chief of Staff."

Hezbollah MP Hussein Haj Hassan said: "In reality, we have to tell the Israeli public at the end—with or without the Winograd Report—that Hezbollah won the battles against the strongest army in the region in July 2006."

Who can disagree with that.

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