Friday, February 01, 2008

"A Holding Pattern"

Arlene Kushner

The discussions and arguments about Winograd go on. There is a broad feeling -- and much anger -- that Olmert was given a pass in too many ways. But there are also those who see much that is stunningly critical in the Report. In fact, the more I read it, the more that is my sense. But the fight goes on and has not yet begun to play out. I was astonished at the editorial in the very left wing Haaretz that said:

"Because they were so preoccupied with the final 60 hours of the war, and because of the fact that the Winograd Committee exonerated Ehud Olmert from an implied accusation that he decided on a ground operation at the last moment only in order to improve his political position, people seem to have
failed to hear the extraordinarily serious remarks read out by Judge Eliyahu Winograd in his summarizing announcement to the public. The blood libel against Olmert was removed from the agenda, but on the other hand, the committee declared him unfit to conduct a war.

"The prime minister has no reason to rejoice, certainly not to drink a toast, and it is doubtful whether he has a right even to breathe a small sigh of relief. The final Winograd report is worse than the partial one because it asserts that after the failure of the first days, no conclusions were drawn,
no changes were made, there was no improvement in either the level of decision making or in the performance of the government or the Israel Defense Forces, and all this in spite of the fact that the government and the military command had 34 days to pull themselves together."

Additionally, in a survey done by the Maagar Mohot Survey Institute (which included Israeli Arabs), right after Winograd was released, 60% think Olmert should resign.

To clarify: What Justice Winograd read on Wednesday evening at the press conference was a summary, or the "highlights" of the Report. The full Report is not being made available because it contains classified material.

I provide here a link to an English translation of what he said, so that you can see for yourself.

And I note in particular the idea, proposed by Winograd, that SC Resolution 1701 represented a "diplomatic success (which I did not deal with in my preliminary comments)." Anyone who has been reading my postings knows I vehemently disagree: 1701 set in place a UNIFIL force that turned a blind eye as Hezbollah rearmed.

Let me clarify here, as well, that the Winograd Committee was appointed by Olmert and thus was not truly independent. He did this as a compromise after the war, when the nation was upset and demanding an independent judicial inquiry that would have given the commission of inquiry powers to call for the resignation of officials that this committee, by design, does not have. Is it necessary to say more?


Defense Minister Barak reportedly will not be pulling Labor from the coalition or calling for elections, but he is considering a call to remove Olmert (who would be replaced without elections). He is going to be meeting with reservist groups.

Opposition head Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) is hitting hard and heavy, as well he would be expected to.


The Israeli Embassy in Mauritania (in northwest Africa -- on the seamline between Arab and Black Africa) was attacked, although details are fuzzy as I write. Somewhere between one and six Islamic gunmen fired on the Embassy early in the morning. Some people have been wounded although because of the hour apparently no Embassy employees were present. Mauritania is an Islamic Republic and a member of the Arab League. It is unusual in that it has diplomatic ties with Israel, but there have calls of late to cut those ties.


As we go into Shabbat, I would like to close with some positive reports.

First, we had a major winter storm here the last couple of days. In many places there was serious snow, although in my location in Jerusalem it was mixed with sleet and hail. The important factor was the large amount of precipitation, in whatever form it arrived. We've been suffering severe drought, with a very dry winter and the Kinneret, our major water source, has been very low. This storm, then, was truly a blessing. Of course, it doesn't remedy everything; it is hoped that we will continue to see solid precipitation in the weeks coming.


And then this, which is very welcome: The Israeli Arab town of Shfaram, in the north near Haifa, has decided that it wants to participate in Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations this spring. All right!

Mayor Ursan Yassin has met with national officials to discuss what festivities would take place in the town. "The 40,000 residents of Shfaram feel that they are a part of the State of Israel," he said. "The desire to participate in the festivities is shared by most of the residents...We will not raise our children to hate the country. This is our country and we want to live in coexistence with its Jewish residents."

Please understand what an anomaly this is. Most of the Israeli Arab population marks Israel Independence Day as the "Nakba" (catastrophe). Yassin admitted that most of the residents have trouble feeling connected to the day but said they didn't want to be left out of the party. Good enough, if there is no hostility. In fact, Yassin criticized recent inciteful remarks by the Israeli Arab Higher Monitoring Committee (which I've reported on). "This is our country and we completely disapprove...I want to hold a central ceremony in Shfaram, raise all the flags and have a huge feast."

A glimmer of hope?

The national committee planning events will make a special effort to include Shfaram.


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