Israeli Report Criticizes Olmert’s Judgment in Lebanon War

The panel’s interim report, issued Monday, blamed Olmert, Amir Peretz, the minister of defense, and Dan Halutz, the former chief-of-staff, for failures against fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel launched massive air strikes and a land campaign while Hezbollah pounded northern Israel with rockets in a conflict that lasted 34 days.

According to the report, Olmert, who lacks high-level military experience, “made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one.”

The commission did not call for Olmert’s resignation but did cast doubt on his political future. His approval ratings dropped to single digits after the war and stalled efforts to negotiate a solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Olmert decided to launch the military campaign to crush Hezbollah and free two Israeli soldiers captured July 12 by the militant group. Neither goal was accomplished, and during the conflict 158 Israelis died — 119 soldiers and 39 civilians — and at least 1,035 people in Lebanon died, according to the Associated Press. The conflict ended with a United Nations-negotiated cease-fire.

In response to the accusations, Olmert said in a broadcast interview, “We will definitely study your material … and ensure that in any future threat scenario against Israel, the difficulties and faults you cited will be corrected.”

The report faulted Peretz for a lack of knowledge about basic military principles and Halutz for leading the prime minister and defense minister to believe that the Israel Defense Force was prepared for a war. Halutz, who has since resigned, reportedly did not provide other military options, played down the rocket threat and silenced dissenting opinions.

The 171-page interim report was issued by Israel’s Winograd Commission, a government-appointed panel that includes two jurists, two former generals and a public policy expert. It looks at the first six days of the war and developments in the last six years that led to Hezbollah’s buildup.

The panel does not have the power to fire officials. Aides to Olmert said he had no intentions to resign.

The full report will be released in a couple of months.