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Major Events in Israel and the Middle East
A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

Transcripts of Winograd Commission Released- Assad Talks War and Peace

Thursday May 10, 2007

Today the Winograd Commision published Prime Minister Olmert, Minister of Defense Peretz, and former Chief-of-Staff Halutz's official testimonies.  The raw testimony did not add a great deal to the Commission's conclusions; they just added a little color to it.  It is clear that Olmert and Peretz were not leading the war in any way, just following the directions of the army. 
The Commission asked Olmert why he did not share with the Cabinet the fact that a war was taking place and it might last for a few weeks, and that the head of the Mossad called for the immediate call up of the reserves.  He answered that there was no reason to discuss such details.  When asked how he could appoint someone with so little experience to be Minister of Defense, he said that it was the Labor party that appointed him, and that furthermore, the country should be proud to have someone like Peretz in such a position.  Olmert was asked if he was unaware of the fact that the army was unprepared. He answered that he just thought they were crying about the lack of budget, and there were no real problems. 
Peretz was asked how he, who never was a Cabinet minister, could have taken such a complicated and technical job, and how he could act like he was a fish to water in the ease that he found in the job.  He had no answer.  Both Peretz and Olmert blamed the army for not doing what they should do. 
On the other hand, Halutz, who gave the most concise and straightforward testimony, blamed to some extent the commanders below him for not taking more initiative.  He further stated that he was supposed to meet with Peretz once a week in the two months before the war, but he Peretz was often too busy to meet. 
Meanwhile in the real world, Syrian President Assad gave a speech at the opening of the Syrian Parliament today.  In it he stated that since the Israeli government is weak, there is a chance that it could go to war, and thus Syria needs to be ready for war.  He claimed that he wants peace, but the Israelis are too weak.  Assad stated that he is ready for public peace talks any time but he does not want secret talks. 
Israel has always been talking about public talks- what a turn of events over the years.  It has always been Israel that stated its desire for public peace talks and the Arabs who were not willing to meet publically.  Minister of Foreign Affairs Livni was in Egypt today to meet with the Egyptians and Jordanians regarding the Arab peace initiative.  Nothing will come out of any of it until there is new government. 
Israel does not have a Minister of Finance. The overwhelming majority of the country wants the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense to resign.  The President is taking a leave of absence from his job due to charges of rape against him. But somehow, the Shekel keeps getting stronger and today has reached a 10 year record at just 3.95 Shekels to the dollar.  If you are thinking of visiting Israel this summer, eating a burger in McDonalds is going to be quite expensive.

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