GIVE the Israelis credit. When their government commisssions a report on subject of major public concern it doesn't try to prejudge the issue with dodgy terms of reference or by appointing placemen to make the judgements. The result can sometimes be as far removed from a typical Whitehall inquiry as it is possible to imagine. Try this, for instance: The Minister of Defence did not have knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters. He also did not have a good knowledge of the basic principles of using military force to achieve political goals. The unfortunate individual on the receiving end of that blast is Amir Peretz, the Labour party leader, who was put in charge of military matters to enable prime minister Ehud Olmert to form his Kadima coalition last year.
Still, the criticism of Mr Peretz by the Winograd Commission inquiry into what is known as the Second Lebanon War, is mild compared to its dismissal of the performance of prime minister Olmert as a serious failure in exercising judgement, responsibility and prudence. Mr Olmert has underlined the accuracy of that conclusion by blithely announcing that he sees nothing in it that requires him to resign. The Israeli public may think differently; the most recent public opinion poll showed approval of his performance at precisely three per cent. But, seriously, credit Israel's democracy that it can ask for the unvarnished truth about a national scandal and get it. Whitehall should take note.
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