Report: War panel spared Olmert to keep Netanyahu from power

Wednesday, February 06, 2008 |  by Staff Writer

A member of the Winograd Commission that investigated the handling of the 2006 Second Lebanon War revealed in an interview published by Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper on Wednesday that the panel had refrained from calling for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s resignation in order to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power and to maintain course toward the division of the Land of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian Arab state.

Prof. Yechezkel Dror indicated that the belief Mr. Olmert will "advance the peace process" strongly influenced his and possibly other panel members' positions when formulating the final version of the Winograd report. The final version of the document carried a vastly different tone than interim version of the report published last year in which Mr. Olmert was called out personally and harshly criticized for his inept handling of the war effort.

Prof. Dror admitted that despite the fact that the peace process with the Palestinian Arabs was not part of the Winograd Commission's mandate, keeping a leader in power who is viewed as most willing to strike a compromise deal with the Arabs was an important part of positions he took during the deliberations.

He then asked rhetorically: "What do you prefer, an Olmert government or new elections where Netanyahu will rise to power?"

Prof. Dror justified the apparent abuse of his position on the Winograd Commission by insisting that the "needs of the future must balance the need for justice in the present."

Israeli lawmakers from across the political spectrum responded with outrage that any member of the commission would be guided by personal opinion regarding who can best bring peace and who should be prime minister, and demanded a new commission of inquiry not appointed by the government.

Later in the day, the Knesset State Control Committee summoned Prof. Dror for an urgent hearing to explain himself.

In a statement released to the press, Prof. Dror claimed that Ma'ariv had misquoted him and taken his remarks out of context.

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