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Olmert Remains Defiant Despite Mass Rally Demanding His Resignation

04 May 2007

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert remains defiant after a mass rally demanding his resignation. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the embattled leader has faced an avalanche of criticism since Monday, when an official commission of inquiry issued its interim report on last year's Lebanon War.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is vowing to remain on the job despite a demonstration by tens of thousands of Israelis in downtown Tel Aviv.

Protesters came from around the country and across the political spectrum to demand that Mr. Olmert resign in the wake of an official report that described his handling of the Lebanon war as a failure.

Reva Muskal, whose son was killed in the war, was among the demonstrators.

"We think that Olmert can no longer disregard the will of the public," he said. "And I think that we all should say it out loud together, 'Olmert you failed. You have been irresponsible to this nation. You should leave your chair for other people that hopefully will do it better.'"

Mr. Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisen, said the people exercised their democratic right to demonstrate but that resigning would be inappropriate.

"The prime minister thinks that he, with this government, is the right person, not to turn around and resign, but to stand up and say, 'I made mistakes, and what we need to do now is to fix them.' And he wants to be the one to fix those mistakes," she said.

Despite a 34-day air and ground assault, the powerful Israeli army failed to defeat 5,000 Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. The inquiry commission accused Mr. Olmert of rushing to war after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid last July. It accused the prime minister of a "severe failure in judgment, responsibility and caution."

The Israeli public is demanding accountability but as one newspaper headline put it, Mr. Olmert is "determined to fight tooth and nail" to remain in office.

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