On January 30, 2008, the Winograd commission issued its long-awaited final report on the Second Lebanon War (2006), calling it a “serious missed opportunity” for Israel that ended “without its clear military victory” and that had “far-reaching implications for us, as well as for our enemies, our neighbors, and our friends in the region and around the world.” It placed responsibility mainly with the IDF command.
Although it found failings with their management of the war, the report essentially exonerated Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and then-defense minister Amir Peretz on the decision to approve the plan for a controversial ground operation against Hizballah in Lebanon. It laid responsibility with the IDF leadership at the time of the fighting and those who had preceded them, whom they blamed for a deterioration in overall preparedness, decision-making, and strategic thinking.
The report reviewed the preparations and the execution of the military and diplomatic objectives of the Israeli leadership and concluded that the war failed to meet those objectives. No clear recommendations were made concerning the prime minister.Olmert remained in power despite low popular ratings, ongoing investigations of “criminal” activity, and divisions in the government coalition over the peace talks with the Palestinians.
On February 12, 2008, Imad Fayez Mughniyeh (also known as Hajj rudwan), long regarded as a senior member of Hizballah’s military wing and in charge of Hizballah’s special operations and a terrorist responsible for numerous major terrorist attacks against the United States and other Western targets, as well as against Israeli and Jewish facilities (such as the Buenos Aires bombings in the 1990s), was killed by a car bomb in Damascus, Syria.
Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah noted in a speech broadcast on February 14 that Israel was responsible for the killing and threatened that Hizballah was ready for “open war” with Israel as a consequence. “Zionists, if you want this type of open war, then let it be. . . .” Israel, for its part, rejected Nasrallah’s claims of Israeli culpability but placed its missions worldwide on high alert and reinforced its positions and forces on the border with lebanon.
As Israel approached its 60th independence anniversary, Israelis continued the peace process and remained cautious about the expressed optimism of President Bush that an agreement might soon be reached between Israel and the Palestinians to achieve peace, but were prepared for increased violence.