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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 21:42 GMT 22:42 UK
Pressure grows on Israeli PM
By Katya Adler
BBC News, Jerusalem

In a night-time address on Israeli television, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has insisted he will not resign. This despite a damning report on his decision to go to war in Lebanon last July.

Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert has vowed to stay in office and remedy any failures
The authors of the report were appointed by Mr Olmert after a public outcry over the perceived failures of the conflict.

Neither of Mr Olmert's war aims were realised - the Lebanese armed movement Hezbollah was not destroyed, the two Israeli soldiers captured by the group were not returned but a lot of people died during 34 days of war.

The panel of investigation has divided their study into two parts.

This interim report looks at Israel's decision to go to war and the events leading up to that point.

It concluded that various political and military leaders, past and present, were to blame for the failings but that ultimate responsibility fell on the shoulders of Israel's prime minister.

The committee found that Ehud Olmert's decision to go to war was taken "rashly" and "hastily" with "no comprehensive plan".

It accused Mr Olmert of not doing his homework - not researching the situation in Lebanon, not checking that Israel's army was prepared, not examining Israel's alternatives to war.

It dismissed his stated war aims as "over-ambitious" and "unfeasible" and criticised him for not amending those goals when he realised the conflict was not going Israel's way.

Political survivor

Also in the committee's firing line were Israel's former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Defence Minister Amir Peretz.

The committee lacks the legal power to demand resignations but Mr Peretz is not expected to stay long in his job.

Dan Halutz stepped down earlier this year after a military inquiry into the Lebanon war.

Yet, Ehud Olmert insists, he is not going anywhere.

Israeli soldiers return from fighting in Lebanon, July 2006
Israel's goals in the war were 'overly ambitious', the report said

Regarded in Israel as a wily political survivor, Mr Olmert has remained in office until now, despite repeated allegations of corruption and embarrassingly low popularity ratings.

In the lead-up to the release of this interim Lebanon war report he spent much time priming political allies and preparing his defence.

His critics sneer that if Mr Olmert had shown half as much dedication to managing the war itself, there would have been no need to commission the investigation.

Much will depend now on Ehud Olmert's coalition partners and particularly on members of his own Kadima party.

Will they now view Ehud Olmert as a political liability and look for a replacement?

Israeli insecurity

The Israeli public also holds the key to Mr Olmert's career.

The report has re-ignited feelings of anger and disappointment about the war.

Rallies and demonstrations are planned this week calling on Mr Olmert to resign.

A huge turn-out would spell bad news for Israel's prime minister.

He says the war in Lebanon last summer was unavoidable, that it was triggered by Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.

He admits mistakes were made and promises they will be remedied but he also insists the conflict was a success.

Bomb damage to south Beirut, Lebanon
Hezbollah's south Beirut stronghold was heavily hit by Israel
Israel's air force destroyed most of Hezbollah's long and medium-range missiles, he says, and the result of the war was that United Nations and regular Lebanese forces now patrol southern Lebanon, instead of Hezbollah fighters.

But the Lebanon War made Israelis feel insecure.

Hundreds of thousands of people spent a month in bunkers in the north of the country, sheltering from nearly 4,000 Hezbollah rockets.

Israel's army is viewed as the most powerful in the Middle East yet it failed to beat a guerrilla group operating in southern Lebanon.

More rockets rained down on Israel on the last day of war than the first.

This is a country obsessed by security. Many Israelis believe they face a constant existential threat, surrounded by hostile neighbours.

That is why, at election time, Israelis tend to favour leaders with a strong military background.

This is the first time in Israel's history that it has a prime minister and defence minister with little military experience.

That in itself was not a problem, concluded the committee of investigation into the Lebanon war, but Mr Peretz and Mr Olmert were chastised for not seeking advice, knowledge and expertise as a result.

Pressure is building on Ehud Olmert. It could peak this summer when the rest of the Lebanon war study is published.




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