The Failure is in the Concept – Summary of the Winograd Report

The Winograd Committee's interim report reveals that the political and military echelons worked according to a political-security concept that was incompatible with the new trends that emerged in Lebanon in the years preceding the war (2000-2006).

The Winograd Committee was appointed in order to examine the conduct of the political and military echelons during the war and preceding it. However, it appears that beyond problems in management, the Israeli system also faced conceptual defects beyond technical military and organizational failures.

The interim report reveals that at the time of the Second Lebanon War, the Israeli system was conducted according to a worldview, which correlated to the reality of the year 2000, but not the Lebanese, regional and Israeli reality of the summer of 2006.

The numerous testimonies published in the report reveal a series of national security issues in which the Israeli concept failed:

  • Supremacy of Israeli power and Israeli deterrence - The Committee notes that the failure of the Lebanon war derived from the fact that for the first time a war ended without a decisive military victory. Israel had delays and difficulties transferring the war to the enemy's territory, though the power relations involve the strongest army in the Middle East against a para-military organization. In addition, Israel's primary objective in the war included rehabilitation of Israeli deterrence, which was damaged in Gaza and Lebanon. However, it appears that the old security concepts, such as "the strongest army in the Middle East," "transferring the war to the enemy's territory," "decisive military victory," and "deterrence" became irrelevant in recent years. As a result, the basic concepts of Israel's national security must be changed (as highlighted by the Meridor Commission which examined Israel's Security Concept and published its conclusions prior to the war.)

  • Israel confronted a new adversary in Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank: The Resistance Network - The Israeli system identified a connection between the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and the Lebanon war, but did not comprehend the essence of the connection. In effect, in both Gaza and Lebanon Israel confronted The Resistance Network, an enemy possessing characteristics of a network and operating with a political logic, whose purpose is to cause Israel's collapse and prevent any political progress assuring Israel's existence as a jewish and democratic state.

  • The Resistance Network opposes finality of claims and end of conflict - The aspiration to reach agreement with the Lebanese government was referred to a number of times in the report. However, the Lebanese government's weakness and Resistance Network's opposition to agreement or any Israeli political progress rendered this objective irrelevant. This trend is also prominent in Israel's relations with the Palestinians.

  • Undermining the political 'address' in Lebanon - An additional Israeli objective during the war was to transform the Lebanese government into the responsible address in Lebanon, despite Israel's awareness of its many weaknesseses. However, a prominent regional trend in recent years is the destabilization of moderate addresses by the Resistance Network. This trend is expressed in Lebanon, the PA and Iraq.

  • The policy of containment and the collapse of Israel's unilateral option - Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon was a part of the Wall of Legitimacy concept, upon which the IDF was based during Disengagement from Gaza and the planned Convergence Plan in the West Bank. This concept was supposed to provide Israel with secure and calm borders after Israel withdrew to internationally recognized borders. However, the six years preceding the Lebanon war and the development of the containment policy in the north rendered Israel's "Wall of Legitimacy" irrelevant.

  • Asymmetry of Logics between Israel and the Resistance Network - While Israel confronted the Resistance Network, which is driven by a political logic particularly, the central alternatives available to the government were not suitable to the enemy's logic. Three military alternatives were available to decision-makers: direct presure against Hizbullah, direct presure against the Lebanese Government, and ground operation, in addition to one political alternative of international and Arab pressure. As a result, an asymmetry of logics developed between the parties.

A number of national security issues exist in which the Israeli mindset in Lebanon failed but were not mentioned in the report. These issues should be treated in the future:

  • US-Israel relations and increasing dependency on the international community - The wide international and American support which the government enjoyed during the first days of the war (as expressed in the G8 declaration) led the Israeli system to believe that the war was tilted in its favor. Israel's inability to "deliver the goods" and win the war increased its dependency on international actors, whom Israel needed to end the war.

  • Rising Iranian Hegemony and its influence in Gaza and Lebanon - Israel confronted the Resistance Network in Gaza and in Lebanon, while the strongest force behind it today is Iran. By using the Resistance Network, Iran seeks to establish regional hegemony, which will enable it to influence any regional process.

Sources

Interim Report of the Winograd Committee, 4/30/07. For the full report (in Hebrew), click here.