Olmert rejects resignation calls

Tzipi Livini, Israel's foreign minister, joins those calling on Ehud Olmert to quit as PM.

    Ehud Olmert has threatened to dismiss Tzipi Livni, left,  if she persists in opposing him [AFP]

    She also said she would seek to take over as party leader.
     
    Livni said: "I told the prime minister that I thought to resign was the right thing to do ... Now is the time to restore the public's trust in the government."
     
    Mounting pressure
     
    Adding to the pressure, Avigdor Yitzhaki, Kadima's parliamentary leader, resigned his position and called on Olmert to "act responsibly and resign".
     
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    Under Kadima's rules, Olmert cannot be ousted. The only course of action is to persuade him to resign, officials say. Parliament could force Olmert out through a no-confidence vote but there does not yet appear to be a majority to do so.

     

    Israeli media quoted aides as saying he may dismiss Livni and fight to stay on, despite opinion polls showing two-thirds of Israelis think he should go.

     

    An Olmert loyalist was named to replace Yitzhaki, Israeli media reported.

     

    Winograd criticism

     

    The government-appointed commission said Olmert had "made up his mind hastily" to launch the campaign against Hezbollah last July and accused him of "a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence".

     

    His declared aims in going to war, to free two soldiers seized by Hezbollah and crush the armed group, were "overly ambitious and impossible to achieve", the commission said in its report on the 34-day conflict.

     

    "I suggest that all those who are in a hurry to take advantage of this report and make political gain - slow down"

    Ehud Olmert, Israeli prime minister

    At an emergency cabinet meeting earlier on Wednesday, Olmert acknowledged personal failings.

     

    He said: "It is primarily incumbent on this government, which is responsible for the failings, to also be responsible for fixing them.

     

    "I suggest that all those who are in a hurry to take advantage of this report and make political gain - slow down."

     

    Dan Halutz, former Israeli military chief, stepped down earlier this year, and aides to Amir Peretz, Israel's defence minister, told Israel Radio and Army Radio he was considering stepping down.

     

    Future political landscape

     

    Opinion polls in three major Israeli newspapers showed 65 to 73 per cent of the public wanted Olmert to quit.

     

    The two frontrunners to replace Olmert are Livni, 48, and

    Benjamin Netanyahu, former prime minister, of the Likud party.

     

    Despite growing dissent within Kadima, Olmert's main coalition partners, notably the Labour group, have so far stuck by him, apparently keen to avoid an early election that could end up reducing their parliamentary power.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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