Yossi Melman at PostGlobal

Yossi Melman

Tel Aviv, Israel

Yossi Melman is a senior commentator for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He specializes in intelligence, security, terrorism and strategic issues. An author of seven books on these topics, his most recent book, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran was published recently by Carroll & Graf. Close.

Yossi Melman

Tel Aviv, Israel

Yossi Melman is a senior commentator for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He specializes in intelligence, security, terrorism and strategic issues. An author of seven books on these topics, his most recent book, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran was published recently by Carroll & Graf. more »

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Report Could Derail Mideast Peace Process

By Yossi Melman

This afternoon, the countdown leading to a new and early election in Israel will begin – and mark the end of the peace process.

At 6pm Israeli time, the Winograd Committee will publish its final and full report on the Second Lebanon War, which Israel launched in June 2006. The report is considered to be one of Israel's most guarded secrets. But leaks by interested political and military parties, off-the-record conversations with the five members of the Committee, and the Winograd interim report all hint at the findings and their consequences. The report will undoubtedly bash both military and political leaders, as well as decision making process which led to the 33-day war.

It will probably say that Premier Ehud Olmert, then-Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and the entire cabinet hastened to launch a military campaign without prioritizing its goals. It will state that the military supreme command, led by Chief of Staff General Dan Haloutz and senior officers from brigade upwards, had neither a clear vision of what they wished to achieve nor a full command of the battlefield. Nevertheless, the report will also say that the war was not a complete failure. It will attempt to pinpoint the military, political and strategic gains the war achieved for Israel. These include the destruction of Hezbollah's long-range missiles by the Israeli Air Force within the first 34 minutes of the war; the dismantling of Hezbollah fortifications along the Israeli borders; and the creation of a buffer zone between Israel and Lebanon, manned by UN peacekeepers.

But regardless of its findings, in reality the report will have impact of preaching to the converts. The Israeli public has already made its verdict. Due to strong (and in many cases biased) media reports, the war is unjustifiably etched in collective Israeli memory as a colossal disaster. Most Israelis think that Premier Olmert, as one of the three architects of the war, should follow his two colleagues out of office: General Haloutz, who resigned. and Defense Minister Peretz, who was forced by his labor party to be replaced by Ehud Barak.

The publication of the report will only strengthen those powerful convictions. Thus, the question is no longer whether Olmert and his Kadima Party-led coalition will survive the report, but when the next elections will be held. There are three scenarios. One is that Olmert and Barak will agree to call an early election either in November 2008 or March 2009. A second scenario is that Barak, joined by Olmert's Kadima party rebels, will try to replace the prime minister with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Olmert will oppose both scenarios, which may lead to a third: he will somehow hold on to power, but the coalition will be bleeding and will eventually die.

Either way, from Wednesday on, Israeli politicians will be engaged in perfecting what they know best: the art of political survival. Their minds, hearts and energies will be devoted to political spins and campaigns, not to diplomatic initiatives. With an outgoing American administration, complicated inter-Palestinian relations and the controlling of Gaza by Hamas, the chance of enhancing the peace process is already quite slim. Yet so far, there has still been a meager hope that Premier Olmert shall be committed to his words and declarations to make 2008 the year of an Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough. Very few Israelis truly believe in Olmert's genuine intentions. Yet he has created an aura of expectation in some quarters in Israel, among moderate Palestinians, and in Washington. The Winograd report and its political fallout will definitely crush such hopes. In such an atmosphere, the possibility that the already crippled peace process is resurrected is very slim. It is almost nonexistent.


Yossi Melman is a PostGlobal panelist, commentator with the Israeli daily Haaretz and co-author of "The Nuclear Sphinx of Teheran," published recently by Carroll & Graf.

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