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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Israeli PM hits back at critics
Ehud Olmert
Unlike most Israeli PMs, Mr Olmert has no distinguished military past
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, under pressure for his performance in the Lebanon conflict, has dismissed his critics as bitter and inexperienced.

He was speaking in a series of Israeli newspaper interviews at the beginning of the Jewish New Year holiday season.

But a poll in Haaretz newspaper has suggested his approval rating is down to a new low of 22%.

Mr Olmert faces public anger over his failure to crush Hezbollah militia fighters during the five-week conflict.

On Wednesday night, veterans and parents of troops killed in the conflict heckled Mr Olmert and scuffled with supporters of his Kadima party during a Jewish New Year address in Tel Aviv.

'Bitterness'

With all due respect, neither [Yaalon nor Mofaz] has conducted a complex international political campaign like the one conducted now
Ehud Olmert

Two former army chiefs, Moshe Yaalon and Shaul Mofaz, now a Kadima minister, have been among the most outspoken critics of the prime minister and his generals.

"I am sorry for 'Boogie' [Yaalon], whose personal bitterness overcame his wisdom... What war like that did Mofaz conduct?" Mr Olmert said to Haaretz.

"With all due respect, neither of them has conducted a complex international political campaign like the one conducted now."

Mr Olmert added that protests against him had been organised and financed by his political opponents who wanted to "overthrow the government, not through elections".

"I have no doubt that we won the war," Mr Olmert said in comments to Maariv newspaper.

Blunders

According to a Haaretz poll, 68% of Israelis disapproved of Mr Olmert's leadership, up from 52% in the last days of the conflict, which ended with a fragile UN-backed ceasefire on 14 August.

Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu - crushed by Kadima in March elections - saw his approval rating rise to 58%, the poll showed.

Labour party leader Amir Peretz, who is defence minister in the Kadima-led coalition, had only a 14% approval rating, down from 37% during the war.

The Israeli political and military leadership stands accused of a series of tactical and logistical blunders during the war, which was launched to free two soldiers captured by Hezbollah in a cross-border raid.

A total of 162 Israelis, most of them soldiers, were killed, while the Lebanese death toll topped 1,200 people, mainly civilians.

The two soldiers were not released and Hezbollah was able to rain thousands of missiles into northern Israel, virtually emptying huge swathes of the country.




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