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Apr 30, 2007

thoughts on the upcoming firestorm

I was in the car tonight driving to my softball game and they were talking to this guy on the radio. I did not catch his name because I turned it on in the middle of the discussion, but he had been a defense adviser to 4 previous Prime Ministers of Israel; Begin, Shamir, Peres and Rabin.

The discussion was about the latest smoking gun - the Winograd Interim Report being released tomorrow evening (actually tonight, as I am writing this after midnight) and whether the criticism is justified or not.

Despite the fact that the report is being released tomorrow, everybody already knows most of what is contained in the report, as it was partially leaked today. It is practically the only thing being discussed on the radio and in the media right now, rightfully so.

Anyways, this defense guy did not want to criticize the government for the decision making processes used during the war. As he said, he was not there and he only knows what he has heard, but was not part of it. So he was talking theoretically about the general situation.

He raised a very interesting point. He said that the issue is not that Olmert decided to go to war or how he came to the decision or that he was supported in the Cabinet in that decision. His issue is after that decision.

Olmert has been very big, in his attempts to spread the blame and try to tack some blame onto Tzippi Livni and at least make her share some of the fallout, on saying how all the decisions they made in the war were completely supported by the whole Cabinet.

This defense guy said that alone shows there was something wrong with the process. He says it means that probably nobody asked too many questions. maybe somebody pressured them all to just follow the lead.

He brought examples from many of Israel's wars and conflicts from the past 30 years, including Lebanon I, the Gulf Wars, the Intifadas, the attack on Osirak, etc. he showed that the decision making process was never unanimous, and often hanged on one vote in the Cabinet. It was always a battle to get approval for battles and procedures in war. Ministers wanted to know details, they asked questions they showed their disapproval when they felt something could be done better. Decisions were made, but they were always fights.

he said, if decisions in this war passed so easily and were unanimously supported, that indicates something was wrong with the processes used.

This thought of his reminded me of a concept in the Jewish court system. The Talmud tells us that when a beis din would be judging a case of a capital offense, with the death penalty on the line, there was an interesting condition. If the beis din unanimously voted that someone deserved the death penalty for his crime, the person would be let go unpunished. The reason for this, the gemara says, is that there is no way that not a single person on the beis din could not have found some merit by which the defendant deserved to be let off. If it is a unanimous decision to kill him, it means the procedure and discussion were faulty, and then no death penalty can be meted out.

It is important to have open discussions on weighty matters where all viewpoints are presented and considered. When that does not happen, something is being muted.

On another topic, I just want to mention that Tzippi Livni does not deserve to replace Olmert. If they give her the job (not that I think Olmert is going to give it up so quickly, but eventually it will come to it), she will only help destroy Kadima (a good thing in my opinion).

Livni has shown no leadership skills. As Foreign Minister we hardly hear from her. Regarding all the Olmert scandals, her method has been to sit quietly on the side and let Olmert stew. She has not given him her support, as other Kadima members have done, but neither has she criticized him. She is sitting quietly and letting others do the dirty work.

While that is a shrewd method of slipping into the job, she has shown absolutely no leadership. If she would take the high ground and talk against corruption and even against Olmert, she would deserve the job of replacing Olmert. But she is afraid to upset Olmert. I do not know why. Olmert's days as PM are numbered, no matter how you look at it, so I am not sure what she is afraid of.

If she would show leadership, she would be given the position of head of Kadima much sooner. She would help effect Olmert's downfall and she would be in the position to take over. Livni is not a leader.

That being said, depending on how harsh the actual wording of the report is, which we will only find out Monday evening after 5 pm, I think it is important that any of the other political parties in the Olmert government should resign from the government on the guise of not being able to support such a government of failure (supposedly the Report calls it that). If Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), Labor, or Shas do not make any moves and only show support for Olmert, I think the backlash will be huge later.

Olmert, and right now Kadima by association, is very unpopular. If the government falls in a few months instead of now, the people will be upset at the other parties that let Olmert and his government of failure stay in power for no reason for so long. If the wording is as harsh as it is rumored to be, I hope the other parties will be smart enough to bring Olmert down.If they don't, it will hurt them later.

Of course, if the rumors are inaccurate and the report is not so harsh, then none of this applies.

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