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Olmert Faces Opposition in Israeli Parliament Amid Calls for Resignation

03 May 2007

Israel's prime minister faced his critics in parliament one day after rebels in his own party called on him to resign over a report that criticizes his leadership during last year's war in Lebanon. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem that tens of thousands of protesters are expected to gather later this evening in Tel Aviv to also demand Ehud Olmert's resignation.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's battle for political survival shifted to Israel's Knesset, the parliament, where opposition leaders blasted his handling of last year's war in Lebanon.

At a special session called to discuss the Winograd Commission report that criticized Mr. Olmert and other senior leaders for not having a proper war plan, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud Party added his voice to the calls for Mr. Olmert to step down.

Netanyahu says Israelis want a leader in their prime minister and one that will inspire their trust. He says it is time for new elections.

While polls show most Israelis want Mr. Olmert to step aside, they also show a majority of Israelis are not eager for new elections.

Calls for new elections came from other politicians like Yossi Beilin who heads the left-wing Meretz Party.

"I am not ruling out an option of elections if Olmert does not step down," he said. "For me the first priority is that Olmert does not continue as prime minister of Israel, but if that does not happen I will support elections."

But Ehud Olmert says he has no intention of stepping down, a message he delivered to his Kadima Party members late Wednesday, successfully defusing a party revolt led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who called on the prime minister to step aside.

Mr. Olmert says he intends to stay in office to implement the recommendations of the Winograd Commission that so heavily criticized him earlier this week. With polls showing Kadima losing nearly all of its seats if new elections are called, Mr. Olmert's parliamentary colleagues appear willing to give him more time to save the party's fortunes.

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