The Winograd Commission of Inquiry into what is now known in Israel as the Second Lebanon War finally delivered the long-anticipated second portion of its report. The verdict about the conduct of the war and its results was scathing, but the bottom line is that, at least for now, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will remain in office. This outcome is a great source of disappointment to many Israelis, as well as to many friends of Israel here, who hoped that with one bold stroke, this panel, itself appointed by Olmert's government, would end the unpopular prime minister's struggle to hang on.
It is a cliché about Israel that there is no word in Hebrew for "accountability." Critics of Olmert are saying that the commission needed to force Israel's leader to take responsibility for the failures of that fateful summer of 2006 by resigning, as did former Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, both of whom were Olmert's key partners in managing the war.
However we may view the commission's pronouncements about the war and about responsibility for the mistakes associated with it, the one principle that must be respected is that the decision as to whether Israel's current government can continue in office lies with its people and their elected representatives.
Whether or not we approve or disapprove of the personnel or policies of any Israeli government, the fact is that as long as it commands the majority of the Knesset, no one can say it is illegitimate. Like the United States, Israel has only one government and chief executive at a time. This is especially true at moments of peril — a point driven home by this week's suicide bombing in Dimona.
In due course, Israel's people will decide on Olmert's future. But until the day he's shown the door by those voters, it is not for Americans to pronounce him unworthy to speak for the Jewish state.