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Winograd Report revives Israeli anger over Lebanon war

Many families of Israeli victims in the 2006 conflict now plan to call for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's resignation.

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"I told him, it's not your job to decide," says Meshulami. He now feels he sent his son to rely on senior army commanders who weren't as cautious and professional as they should have been about sending the troops into a "killing field," he says.

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"My job is to bring up my son and strengthen him. Did they not do their homework?" he asks, throwing up his hands. "It was childishness to send our sons into an area which was so dangerous, and which they didn't know enough about. They didn't have the backup forces they needed. We hope that at least this sacrifice will bring the change we need. We want the [Israel Defense Forces] to take full responsibility and move forward."

The Meshulamis are no fans of Olmert or his Kadima Party, which was set up by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as part of his decision to withdraw from Gaza in August 2005.

After being moved out of the Gaza settlement of Netzarim, they moved as a group inside Israel, to a place called Yivul, somewhere near the Gaza border. Meshulami, a chicken farmer, says the community there wasn't zoned for chicken coops, and so three months ago, they decided to move here – an illegal settlement outpost.

But Meshulami says he isn't looking for "revenge," and that he's not sure that Olmert is the one most at fault for what many Israelis consider to be a devastating war.

"A prime minister would be informed of what's going on in the army and whether to go to war or not, but the job of whether to go into battle in this village or that, that's not his job," Meshulami says. "The people who made the real mistakes are the professional army people."

That sentiment, in fact, may be what saves Olmert's political career from yet another beating from the Winograd Commission following its initial, interim findings last April.

Many analysts say that although many Israelis have a sense of malaise with Olmert, the blame for the war is spread more widely than just at the political level. Moreover, other senior military officials, such as the IDF chief of staff, Dan Halutz, have already resigned.

"I'm sure Olmert cannot remain clean after this final report, but the question is whether we will see a critical mass of opposition that can remove him, and I'm doubtful of it," says Yagil Levy, a sociologist who focuses on military-civilian affairs at Ben Gurion University in the Negev.

Professor Levy says that the right wing and most settlers will try to leverage the Winograd Report as a way to get Olmert to resign, but that it won't be enough to force a change. "I'm not sure that this is enough in this political situation."

One of the wild cards, however, is how influential the bereaved families will be in the aftermath of the report.

"They want to see Olmert resign regardless of what the report says," Levy adds. Many of the families plan to hold a demonstration outside of Barak's home in Tel Aviv, calling on the Labor leader to keep his promise to oust Olmert.

"I think Olmert should leave office, and not because he needs to take all the blame, but to show the people in Israel that when you make mistakes, you need to pay the price," says Tal Sheinbroom, who fought in the war, during which he lost his only sibling, Staff Sgt. Yaniv. Both brothers were paratroopers, with Tal following in his brother's footsteps.

"But I don't think Olmert will resign, even if the committee says he should, but they won't say it," he adds. "And so today is not so different than any other day. The families that lost their sons in the war have days like this the whole year. I thought about my brother and tomorrow I'll think about him, too, and I don't need any committee to remind me of what happened."

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