Olmert to be blamed directly for Lebanon war casualties

Sunday, November 18, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

The final report of Israel's official inquiry into the handling of the summer 2006 war against Lebanon's Hizballah terrorist militia is expected to directly blame Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the deaths of at least 33 Israeli soldiers.

Having already agreed to join a ceasefire that was being hammered out at the time at the UN, Olmert ordered the Israeli army to launch a major offensive against Hizballah in the last 60 hours of the war. The rushed manner of the operation resulted in a high number of casualties and little to show in the way of success against the enemy.

"Aware that a ceasefire agreement was underway, [Olmert] ordered the army to carry out an impossible operation to wind up a failed war against Hizbullah with a big showdown," sources close to the Winograd Commission that is investigating the government's handling of the war told London's Sunday Times.

An army officer noted that what Olmert ordered during those final hours was "an operation the army had planned for months – to crack down decisively and finish off Hizballah. But it should have begun the war, not ended it and we needed 96 hours to trap Hizballah and then a week to finish them off."

Another Israeli source believes that "the report will blame Olmert in the harshest way possible and the last 60 hours of the war will be the hook on which they hang him." Officials on the Winograd Commission have already announced that they will not make a direct call for Olmert's resignation, regardless of how severe their findings turn out to be.

The Winograd Commission's interim report, which was released earlier this year, blamed Olmert and his cabinet for ineffective and uninformed leadership during a time of national crisis.

For his part, Olmert insists the inquiry is a national learning opportunity, and should in no way obligate him to step down or tarnish his reputation as a wartime leader.

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