Olmert facing war report criticism

Israel to publish the findings of inquiry into the 34-day conflict with Hezbollah.

    Winograd has already accused Ehud Olmert of
    "severe failures" over the war in Lebanon [AFP]
    However, the five-member panel cannot recommend that Olmert or any others resign and the prime minister has vowed to stay on and act to "rectify any mistakes" highlighted in the report.

    'Sleepless nights'

    "Winograd has already given the Israeli prime minister many sleepless nights but Ehud Olmert proved a master of the political arts of cunning, surviving the scathing criticism of the committee's interim report," Al Jazeera's David Chater in Jerusalem said.

    Amir Peretz, the defence minister at the time of the war, and Dan Halutz, the armed forces chief, resigned last year.

    The war broke out in July 2006 when Hezbollah fighters killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two others in a cross-border raid.
    Israel began a massive air and ground asssault in Lebanon in which nearly 1,200 Lebanese died, many of them civilians.

    Hezbollah fought back fighting Israeli troops on the ground and firing rockets across the border. The fighting killed 157 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

    In April, the commission accused Olmert of lacking "judgement, responsibility and prudence" in his decision to go to war against Hezbollah.
    Hezbollah 'victory'
    Rula Amin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Lebanon, said people in the southern suburbs of Beirut, where the effects of the war were still visible and many buildings still badly damaged, residents had other concerns.
    "People here have more urgent needs to pay attention to ... a lot of reconstruction has taken place in the last year but they are still a long way from repairing everything that was destroyed," she said.
    Amin also said the report was being used by Hezbollah to show it had won a victory over Israel.
    "For Hezbollah, the bottom line is any Israeli failure is a proof of Hezbollah's success in achieving victory over Israel," she said.
    "But for many Lebanese, whether they are pro-Hezbollah or anti-Hezbollah, the main question ... is whether the conclusions encourage or discourage future Israeli leaders from further attacks on Lebanon."

    Costly ground assault

    The report will focus on the last days of the war when Olmert ordered a costly ground assault as the United Nations drafted a ceasefire agreement between the two sides.

    Thirty soldiers died in the offensive, which Olmert contends helped Israel improve its position in the truce.

    "In my eyes taking responsibility means fixing. You screwed it up, you should fix it," Roni Bar-On, the finance minister and a close ally of Olmert, said when asked if the prime minister would step down if he was blamed.

    Ehud Barak, Labor party leader and Israel's current defense minister, has said Olmert should be replaced or elections held after the full report is published.

    "All eyes are on Ehud Barak," Hanan Crystal, Israeli political commentator, told Israel Radio. "He needs to make the first move."

    Barak, who recently said he would "act in accordance with what is right and good for the state of Israel", could pull Labor's 19-members out of Olmert's government coalition forcing an early election.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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