Lebanon War Inquiry Brings Calls for Olmert's Resignation
29 April 2007
Israel's embattled leader Ehud Olmert is facing growing calls for his resignation before the publication of an official inquiry into last year's war in Lebanon. But despite expectations of a highly critical report, the prime minister's aides say he has no intention of stepping down. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.
Parliamentarians across Israel's political spectrum are demanding that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resign, after an official inquiry reportedly describes his handling of the Lebanon War as a failure.
The five-member Winograd Commission will publish its interim report on Monday. According to portions of the document leaked to Israeli media, the panel concludes that Mr. Olmert made hasty and ill-advised decisions from the outset of the war.
"The political level, the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, they carry the major burden of the fiasco of the Second Lebanese War. They should resign," said former Defense Minister Moshe Arens of the opposition Likud party.
Mr. Olmert's office declined comment until official publication of the report on Monday. But his aides say he will not resign.
"I am sure that the commission's report will not prevent him from leading the country and leading the government," said Tzachi Hanegbi, who is from the Prime Minister's Kadima party.
Hanegbi, who heads the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, also denies allegations that Mr. Olmert mishandled the war.
"I am convinced that the decisions that he made were the right ones. I am convinced that he made those decisions based on the data, on the information given to him by the chief of staff and by the generals, the head(s) of the army," he said.
The inquiry commission sees things differently. It reportedly concludes that Mr. Olmert failed to question the army's battle plans, publicly stated his war aims without ensuring that they were attainable and did not have an exit strategy.
Israeli forces entered Lebanon after Hezbollah guerrillas began firing thousands of rockets into Israel. Despite a 34-day air and ground assault, the Israeli army failed to defeat about 5,000 guerrillas in southern Lebanon. In addition, reserve soldiers returning from the battlefield complained of poor preparations and a lack of food and ammunition.
Media reports say the commission does not recommend that the prime minister resign. But if he stays in power, analysts believe he will be weak and ineffective.
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