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Olmert Faces Pressure to Resign Following Lebanon War Report

01 May 2007

There is political turmoil in Israel after an official probe issued a damning report on the government's handling of last year's war in Lebanon. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel's embattled leader is in the hot seat.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is facing mounting pressure to resign, after an official inquiry harshly criticized his handling of the Lebanon war. The five-member commission accused Mr. Olmert of a "severe failure in judgment, responsibility and caution."

The Prime Minister suffered a further blow when Cabinet Minister Eitan Cabel quit.

"Ehud Olmert must resign," Cabel said. "I cannot sit in a government headed by Ehud Olmert."

Cabel is a member of the Labor Party, the senior coalition partner in the government. Some members of Mr. Olmert's own Kadima party are also calling for his resignation, though most are standing behind the Prime Minister. Cabinet Minister Avi Dichter.

Dichter praised Mr. Olmert for the way he led the country in the months after former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a sudden, massive stroke in January of 2006.

Nevertheless, Mr. Olmert is taking the blame for Israel's failure to deal a knockout blow to some 5,000 Hezbollah guerrillas during a 34-day air and ground assault on Lebanon. The report said he acted hastily by going to war after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. It said he did not have a detailed military plan and did not ask for one.

"There were mistakes and failures...and they will be fixed," Mr. Olmert said. "But to resign, he added, would be inappropriate."

The Israeli public sees things differently. A poll shows that 69 percent believe Mr. Olmert should resign.

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