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Critique of Olmert Pushes His Tenure to Brink

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Critique of Olmert Pushes His Tenure to Brink


Critique of Olmert Pushes His Tenure to Brink

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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David Makovsky is director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He also lectures at John Hopkins. Welcome back.

Mr. DAVID MAKOVSKY (Director, Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy): It's good to be with you, Robert.

SIEGEL: First, as a piece of public investigation, how would you describe the Winograd Commission's report?

Mr. MAKOVSKY: I think it's a historic day for Israel. It's a 150-page report, heavily footnoted with direct excerpts from Israeli Cabinet meetings. More direct excerpts from the variety of policy makers, including Israeli army officials who appear before the commission, and it's to me a historic time where a democracy is able to investigate itself and hopefully resolve the deficiencies as painful as it may be. It's just a very thoroughly written report and I think in that way it's Israel at its finest.

SIEGEL: Well, the commission report, as we've heard, faults Israel's prime minister, defense minister, then chief of staff, for how poorly they planned, how little they consulted. In some cases, how much they relied on their own limited experience. But, as I understand it those findings confirmed what the people of Israel already knew or at least felt about the war last year against Hezbollah.

Mr. MAKOVSKY: Yes, the public had a, kind of, a gut feeling about some of these players that they weren't up to par, but when people read the report they see there's a very explicitly and painfully so, and that has to hurt very much. The defense minister who was up to be replaced on May 28th in a Labor Party primary, it could be with, you know, two key players who have military experience. And the question will be: Will this government stay together.

And Ehud Olmert who is anywhere from three to 12 percent in the polls before this report, you know, lacks broad public trust. It's hard to believe that he's going to be able to continue. That he seems to be living on borrowed time and his coalition is in trouble even though the politicians aren't excited about new elections.

SIEGEL: We have a prime minister who is, you know, who was polling usually in the single digits before the Winograd Commission reported. Can somebody that weak who's leading Israel into such a - what appears will be chapter of internal self-scrutiny about its leadership. Can he actually do anything in the peace process either with the Palestinians or the Syrians or whoever it might or whether this is the Arab League peace plan for that matter?

Mr. MAKOVSKY: Before this report, he looked like a lame duck. After this report, he looks like a dead duck. And I think that it's very unlikely that someone who's pulling single digits before the Winograd report can take these monumentous decisions.

If you look at the polls, the Israeli public wants to end this conflict, but it's hard to see under the configuration of this government, as it currently exists, with yet another Winograd report still ahead of us, this is just on first five days of the war.

That it is going to be able to have the broad enough shoulders to make those momentous decisions. So, I hope that this period of self-scrutiny will, you know, go its course, but then ultimately a new leadership emerges that is pragmatic and able to take the broad decisions to implement what Israel wants -according to the polls which is to find a way out of this conflict.

SIEGEL: Israelis respect their justices who were paneled for these things. I mean they tend to believe the retired judges called him to be dishonest.

Mr. MAKOVSKY: Absolutely. There's been a lot of corruption that has swirled around Olmert, which is unrelated to Lebanon, which doesn't figure in this report, but that clearly lends a tone. But the judiciary in Israel is viewed as fiercely independent and in all polls it scores the highest of all institutions. So if the commissions of the past - Agranat after '73, Kahn after '82 - after those two wars, I think this will enter that, sort of, pantheon. The Israeli public sees these people as impartial.

SIEGEL: David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. MAKOVSKY: Thank you.

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