Sunday, April 29, 2007

Israel's lost war causing deep waves

Olmert won't quit over war report:TV

By Jonathan Saul

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not resign despite expectations that an imminent report on the Lebanon war will censure his role, Israeli television quoted Olmert aides as saying on Saturday.

The state-named Winograd Commission will publish preliminary findings on Monday analyzing the first five days of fighting and Israel's decision to launch the war against Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas after they seized two soldiers at the border last July 12.

Channel 10 television quoted a leaked copy of the report as criticizing Olmert for lacking "an organized plan" in launching the war, and describing his move as a "misguided and rash judgment".

Olmert's office said in a statement the prime minister and his office had yet to receive the panel's interim findings and were "not aware of its contents".

It would issue a response only after the report had been published and it had studied it, Olmert's office said.

"We have no intention of responding to speculation reported by the media," the statement said.

Analysts say Olmert's political future may be decided in the wake of its findings, as well as Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

Channel 10 quoted Olmert aides as saying he had no intention of resigning despite the criticism.

It quoted the aides as saying the whole government took the decision to go to war.

"Sources close to Olmert say it is going to prove very tough for him to survive this report. Their estimate is that he will succeed, but it is going to be hard," Channel 10's political reporter Nadav Peri said.

Channel 10 said the commission stopped short of calling for Olmert's resignation.

The panel further accused Olmert, who unlike many of his predecessors lacks a military pedigree, of relying "in an absolute way" on his top brass and authorizing operations without seeking wider consultation from other sources, Channel 10 said.

It also said he lacked foresight on how the war could play out, Channel 10 reported.

Channel 2 television, quoting from the report, said Olmert had "failed" in his role during the war.

He has vowed to survive the war's fallout and serve out his term in office, which ends in 2010.


Olmert and Peretz have seen their popularity slump since the war after Israel failed to crush Hezbollah.

They have faced criticism in Israel for the army's failure to stop Hezbollah from firing 4,000 rockets at its northern towns.

Peretz, a former trade union boss who took the defense portfolio as part of a coalition deal with Olmert, was faulted by the Winograd Commission for his inadequate knowledge in matters of national security, Channel 10 said.

The report also found fault with Dan Halutz, who resigned as the military's chief of staff after the war, for not coming up with solutions to the rocket barrages or providing alternative plans to the government, Channel 10 said.

In the fighting, 158 Israelis died, including 117 soldiers and 41 civilians. About 1,200 people were killed in Lebanon, including an estimated 270 Hezbollah gunmen.

Olmert has argued that the conflict, which lasted 34 days, improved Israel's security by banishing Hezbollah from its frontier strongholds and boosting a U.N. peacekeeper force.

Original article posted here.

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