25. We note, however, that we have seen no serious staff work on Israeli positions in the negotiations. This situation improved in part when the team headed by the prime minister's head of staff was established. The team worked efficiently and with dedication, professionalism and coordination. This could not compensate, however, for the absence of preparatory staff work and discussions in the senior political echelon.
26. This fact may have much significance to the way Israel conducts negotiations, and to the actual content of the arrangements reached. In such negotiations, decisions are often made that may have far-reaching implications on Israel's interests, including the setting of precedents.
27. The staff work done in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning the adoption of a favorable resolution in the Security Council was, in the main, quick, systematic and efficient. At the same time, for a variety of reasons, it did not reflect clear awareness of the essential need to maintain an effective relationship between military achievements and diplomatic activities.
28. We now turn to the political and military activity concerning the ground operation at the end of the war. This is one of the central foci of public debate.
29. True, in hindsight, the large ground operation did not achieve its goals of limiting the rocket fire and changing the picture of the war. It is not clear what the ground operation contributed to speeding up the diplomatic achievement or improving it. It is also unclear to what extent starting the ground offensive affected the reactions of the government of Lebanon and Hezbollah to the ceasefire.
30. Nonetheless, it is important to stress that the evaluation of these decisions should not be made with hindsight. It cannot depend on the achievements or the costs these decisions in fact had. The evaluation must be based only on the reasons for the operation, and its risks and prospects as they were known - or as they should have been known - when it was decided upon. Moreover, it is impossible to evaluate the ground operation at the end of the war without recalling the developments that preceded it and the repeated delays in the adoption of the Security Council resolution; and as a part of the overall conduct of the war.
31. Against this background, we make the following findings on the main decisions:
--The cabinet decision of August 9th -- to approve in principle the IDF plan, but to authorize the PM and the MOD to decide if and when it should be activated, according to the diplomatic timetable - was almost inevitable, giving the Israeli government necessary military and political flexibility.
--The decision to start in fact the ground operation was within the political and professional discretion of its makers, on the basis of the facts before them. The goals of the ground operation were legitimate, and were not exhausted by the wish to hasten or improve the diplomatic achievement. There was no failure in that decision in itself, despite its limited achievements and its painful costs.
--Both the position of the Prime minister -- who had preferred to avoid the ground operation -- and the position of the Minister of Defense -- who had thought it would have served Israel's interest to go for it -- had been taken on the merits and on the basis of evidence. Both enjoyed serious support among the members of the general staff of the IDF and others. Even if both statesmen took into account political and public concerns -- a fact we cannot ascertain - we believe that they both acted out of a strong and sincere perception of what they thought at the time was Israel's interest.
32. We want to stress: The duty to make these difficult decisions was the political leaders'. The sole test of these decisions is public and political.
33. At the same time, we also note that:
--We have not found within either the political or the military echelons a serious consideration of the question whether it was reasonable to expect military achievements in 60 hours that could have contributed meaningfully to any of the goals of the operation;
--We have not found that the political echelon was aware of the details of the fighting in real time, and we have not seen a discussion, in either the political or the military echelons, of the issue of stopping the military operation after the Security Council resolution was adopted;
--We have not seen an explanation of the tension between the great effort to get additional time to conclude the first stage of the planned ground operation and the decisions not to go on fighting until the ceasefire itself.
34. A description of failures in the conduct of war may be regarded as harming Israel. There will be those who may use our findings to hurt Israel and its army. We nonetheless point out these failures and shortcomings because we are certain that only in this way Israel may come out of this ordeal strengthened. We are pleased that processes of repair have already started. We recommend a deep and systematic continuation of such processes. It is exclusively in the hands of Israeli leaders and public to determine whether, when facing challenges in the future, we will come to them more prepared and ready, and whether we shall cope with them in a more serious and responsible way than the way the decision-makers had acted -- in the political and the military echelons -- in the 2nd Lebanon war.