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Cablegate: Winograd Reverberates but Barak Stays with Olmert

VZCZCXRO9959
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #0277/01 0361631
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051631Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5268
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 000277

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR MOPS KDEM IS LE
SUBJECT: WINOGRAD REVERBERATES BUT BARAK STAYS WITH OLMERT

REF: A. TEL AVIV 245

B. 239

1. Summary: MOD Barak has decided to keep the Labor Party
in the coalition -- for now, and refrained from demanding
early elections. His decision led Ma'ariv journalist Ben
Caspit to predict that "Barak, who hoped to steal Kadima away
from Olmert and to face Bibi (Netanyahu) alone in a year's
time, may undergo the opposite experience now. Olmert will
steal the Labor Party electorate from him, and confront Bibi
by himself." Olmert opponents did not take to the streets
during the cold, windy weather of last week, but some
bereaved families of soldiers killed during the Second
Lebanon War took their protest against Olmert's leadership
into the Knesset where they verbally assaulted the prime
minister on February 4. In his Knesset address, Olmert
accepted responsibility for failures identified in the
Winograd report, promised corrective action, and accused
Opposition Leader Netanyahu of distorting reality in his
criticism of Olmert's leadership during the Second Lebanon
War. End Summary.

BARAK KEEPS LABOR IN

2. Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak
announced his intention to stay in the governing coalition on
February 3, bringing to an end speculation whether the Labor
Party would leave following the publication of the final
report of the Winograd Committee. Barak told the press
before the start of the weekly cabinet meeting "I am
remaining in the post of defense minister because I know the
challenges that the State of Israel faces. I know that this
decision may disappoint some of you, perhaps it will gladden
some of you, but I have promised to do what I think is good
and right for the country. I may pay a political price for
this decision, but I know that there is a state here and an
IDF, and there are more important things to all of us and to
me." As a result of Barak's decision, four members of the
Labor Party -- MK's Pines-Paz, Eitan Cabel, Danny Yatom and
Shelly Yachimovich -- declared they would vote against the
coalition whenever they see fit to do so.

OLMERT ACCEPTS RESPONSIBILITY, BUT BLASTS BIBI

3. On February 3, after absorbing the full report (and
Barak's decision to remain), Olmert told his cabinet that the
Winograd report had clearly identified "achievements
alongside the failures and important successes for the State
alongside the failures." He emphasized that Minister Barak
and IDF Chief of General Staff Ashkenazi had, "with greater
impetus" than their respective predecessors, begun to study
the mistakes and prepare the defense establishment to correct
them. FM Livni, for her part, chose to congratulate her
staff for their role in bringing about UNSCR 1701, and
pointedly refrained from repeating her 2007 call for Olmert
to resign.

BEREAVED PARENTS CASTIGATE OLMERT IN THE KNESSET

4. At the Knesset plenary session devoted to the Winograd
report on February 4, Olmert accepted full responsibility for
all the failures of the war, and pledged to correct the flaws
and jumpstart the inevitable changes which must be made.
Olmert faced a hostile barrage of criticism from the
opposition, and contempt from several bereaved parents in the
gallery. One mother asked: "Where were your children? I
sent two sons to war and one did not return." A father said
he planned to give up his citizenship in disgust. The
parents were ushered out, but Olmert responded in kind to
Opposition Leader Netanyahu's call for his resignation with a
vigorous "J'accuse" of his own: "You who were informed, you
who received almost daily updates from me... you who
participated in all the main steps and supported them at the
time ... Do not give a hand or your voice to the
argumentative and inciting tone.... Allow the grief and the
bereaved parents to speak without mediators and political and
party motivations."

KNESSET VOTE REVEALS KADIMA AND LABOR REBELS

5. The Knesset members present voted on the Prime Minister's
statement, which received approbation from 59 members and
opposition from 53. While this vote did not constitute a
formal "vote of no confidence," its closeness did demonstrate
that rebels within the Kadima (2) and Labor (4) parties
constitute a potential threat to coalition stability in the
future. The leader of the Kadima rebels, MK Avigdor
Yitzhaki, is expected to resign his seat, a move that would
usher in a new MK from the Kadima list, but MK Marina
Solodkin will remain. On the Labor side, former Defense
Minister Peretz and Minister without Portfolio Ami Ayalon
were not present for the vote. Ayalon, who is mourning the

TEL AVIV 00000277 002 OF 002


death of his father and had been one of the Labor party
candidates who, like Pines Paz and Danny Yatom, had called
for Olmert's resignation last year, expressed his support for
Barak and Labor to remain in the government.

********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website.
********************************************* ********************
JONES

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