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Olmert convening Cabinet, considering options after scathing report on Lebanon war

Olmert convening Cabinet, considering options after scathing report on Lebanon war

Withering criticism of his running of last year's war in Lebanon and demands for his resignation were wearing down Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who dozed off in public while trying to maintain a facade of determination to correct what went wrong.
Aides said privately late Tuesday that Olmert realized a public outcry could force him to step down.
Olmert was convening his Cabinet in special session Wednesday to appoint a committee to look into the findings of the Winograd Commission. Its report used scathing language to describe Olmert's hasty decision to launch the war against Hezbollah last summer without considering options, weighing the pitfalls or consulting experts.
The war resulted in widespread destruction in Lebanon, almost 4,000 Hezbollah rockets raining down on Israel and more than 1,000 people dead, most of them in Lebanon.
It was unlikely that appointment of a new Cabinet committee would overshadow the rising tide of demands that he quit, which began not long after the costly but inconclusive war.
Olmert, 61, showed signs of strain on Tuesday, struggling to stay awake at a ceremony installing a new police commissioner. TV cameras caught his eyes fluttering closed several times, and local stations ran the scene again and again. Confidants spoke of a gloomy atmosphere in his office.
Aides explained he had stayed up all night reading the 263-page commission report.
Olmert aides, speaking after a long day of talks and calculations Tuesday, said the prime minister knew he might be nearing the end of his rein because of the extent of the public protest. The aides, speaking on condition of anonymity because their consultations were private, said Olmert felt if he does resign, Israel would be thrown into an election campaign, because no one else could set up an alternative government.
Polls show Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Kadima to be more popular than her boss, but former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the hawkish Likud Party would win the premiership if elections were held now.
Issues like Middle East peacemaking were shoved aside as Israel faced its internal political crisis.
A series of tests faced the embattled Israeli leader. On Thursday, his Kadima Party parliamentary faction holds a meeting, where a burgeoning internal revolt may go public. Israeli media reported that even the chairman of the faction, Olmert stalwart Avigdor Yitzhaki, would call for his resignation.
So far only one member of the Kadima team _ Marina Solodkin, still disgruntled after being passed over for a Cabinet post _ has openly said Olmert should quit.
Later Thursday, Olmert's opponents from all sides planned a show of strength at a demonstration in downtown Tel Aviv. Its size and composition could go a long way toward showing Olmert whether he can weather the storm.
On May 28, the Labor Party, Olmert's main coalition partner, holds a primary election where Defense Minister Amir Peretz, also a target of criticism from the inquiry commission, is likely to be replaced. Two of the three candidates opposing Peretz have called on Olmert to resign, and Labor could well leave his coalition, probably forcing elections.
Accenting his call for Olmert's resignation, Labor Cabinet minister Eitan Cabel stepped down himself on Tuesday and suggested Olmert follow him out the door.
"It's a very big drama, and the seismograph is shaking," said Avraham Diskin, a political science professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Aides said Olmert knew he was in political trouble.
"He has complete awareness of the lack of public confidence, but he feels that rather than go into a period of turmoil, he must be the one to fix the problems," spokeswoman Miri Eisin said. "He thinks that through his actions, (public) support will come."
Olmert's public support, high in the early days of the Lebanon war, nose-dived after the fighting ended without Israel's achieving the two goals Olmert declared _ crippling Hezbollah and recovering the captured soldiers. Snowballing corruption allegations have further harmed his standing.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, continued to gloat over Olmert's troubles.
Just across Israel's northern border, Hezbollah put up billboards of the Israeli leader with a grimace on his face, against a backdrop of photos of a ship, a blazing helicopter and a damaged tank.
"It's really disgusting ...!" the billboard read.


Updated : 2021-08-01 06:23 GMT+08:00