Israel PM urged to quit


Summary

One cabinet minister quit, politicians and newspapers are shrieking for Mr Olmert to follow suit and a senior official in the premier's Kadima party said most of its parliamentary deputies wanted him to step down.

Minister without portfolio Eitan Cabel became the first member of the cabinet to resign following the scathing interim report into the 34-day war last summer that is widely regarded as a failure in Israel.

More politicians join bandwagon

"The public has lost its faith in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert," said Mr Cabel, a senior politician from Kadima's main coalition partner, Labour.

"I can no longer remain in a government that is headed by Ehud Olmert," Mr Cabel said, calling on other coalition partners to do their "duty" and precipitate the prime minister's departure.

According to private Channel 10 television, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has also joined the chorus of those demanding Mr Olmert's head.

Ms Livni's office however said it could not confirm the report while public television said she would make known her views at a special meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday, called to discuss the damning report.

A Kadima party official, meanwhile, said "there's a majority of Kadima (deputies) who support the calls for Mr Olmert's resignation."

And MP Marina Solodkin became the first from the centrist Kadima party to officially call for Mr Olmert's resignation.

"The Winograd report is unequivocal. It states that Mr Olmert had failed and he must resign," she told reporters.

But the chairman of Kadima's parliamentary bloc, Avigdor Itzchaky, insisted that "there is no attempt to oust Mr Olmert."

Parliament is to discuss the report in an extraordinary session on Thursday.

Press headlines were unanimous in calling for Mr Olmert to step down, less than a year after he officially assumed the premier's chair.

"A Gun to His Head" and "He Needs To Go" screamed headlines in the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot daily. " Olmert on His Way Out," predicted tabloid rival Maariv, while the liberal Haaretz settled for "Tightening the Noose".

Defying public opinion

A poll conducted by public radio said 69 percent of respondents think Mr Olmert should resign, while 74 percent believe Defence Minister Amir Peretz, whom the report said failed in his functions, should also go.

Following months of dismal approval ratings over the war and a string of scandals, the strain has begun to show on the 61-year-old Mr Olmert. Attending an official ceremony in the morning, he appeared pale and drawn, closing his eyes in tiredness.

Speaking late on Monday, Mr Olmert told the nation it would be "incorrect" for him to resign. He vowed that his government, already reeling from a string of sex and corruption scandals, would now focus quickly to correct the faults.

Israel's war against Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers, according to government figures.

Mr Olmert's ratings have languished at historic lows for months, with one recent poll showing that just two percent of Israelis trust him.

But with a 78-member coalition in the 120-seat parliament, a strong economy and reluctance so far from the public to protest en masse, pundits here said Israel's master politician could yet manoeuvre out of the crisis.

Mr Olmert's ability to do so could hinge largely on public reaction. An initial mass demonstration is scheduled in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

Monday's partial report accused Mr Olmert of "serious failure in exercising judgement, responsibility and prudence," of acting "hastily" and personally contributing to "over-ambitious" and unfeasible war aims.

Israel failed to achieve its two main objectives during the war.

The first was to rescue two soldiers, whose capture in a cross-border raid by Hezbollah triggered the conflict. The second was to eliminate Hezbollah's ability to threaten Israel with rockets, 4,000 of which rained down on the country, sending a million Israelis fleeing the north and killing dozens of civilians.


One cabinet minister quit, politicians and newspapers are shrieking for Mr Olmert to follow suit and a senior official in the premier's Kadima party said most of its parliamentary deputies wanted him to step down.

Minister without portfolio Eitan Cabel became the first member of the cabinet to resign following the scathing interim report into the 34-day war last summer that is widely regarded as a failure in Israel.

More politicians join bandwagon

"The public has lost its faith in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert," said Mr Cabel, a senior politician from Kadima's main coalition partner, Labour.

"I can no longer remain in a government that is headed by Ehud Olmert," Mr Cabel said, calling on other coalition partners to do their "duty" and precipitate the prime minister's departure.

According to private Channel 10 television, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has also joined the chorus of those demanding Mr Olmert's head.

Ms Livni's office however said it could not confirm the report while public television said she would make known her views at a special meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday, called to discuss the damning report.

A Kadima party official, meanwhile, said "there's a majority of Kadima (deputies) who support the calls for Mr Olmert's resignation."

And MP Marina Solodkin became the first from the centrist Kadima party to officially call for Mr Olmert's resignation.

"The Winograd report is unequivocal. It states that Mr Olmert had failed and he must resign," she told reporters.

But the chairman of Kadima's parliamentary bloc, Avigdor Itzchaky, insisted that "there is no attempt to oust Mr Olmert."

Parliament is to discuss the report in an extraordinary session on Thursday.

Press headlines were unanimous in calling for Mr Olmert to step down, less than a year after he officially assumed the premier's chair.

"A Gun to His Head" and "He Needs To Go" screamed headlines in the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot daily. " Olmert on His Way Out," predicted tabloid rival Maariv, while the liberal Haaretz settled for "Tightening the Noose".

Defying public opinion

A poll conducted by public radio said 69 percent of respondents think Mr Olmert should resign, while 74 percent believe Defence Minister Amir Peretz, whom the report said failed in his functions, should also go.

Following months of dismal approval ratings over the war and a string of scandals, the strain has begun to show on the 61-year-old Mr Olmert. Attending an official ceremony in the morning, he appeared pale and drawn, closing his eyes in tiredness.

Speaking late on Monday, Mr Olmert told the nation it would be "incorrect" for him to resign. He vowed that his government, already reeling from a string of sex and corruption scandals, would now focus quickly to correct the faults.

Israel's war against Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers, according to government figures.

Mr Olmert's ratings have languished at historic lows for months, with one recent poll showing that just two percent of Israelis trust him.

But with a 78-member coalition in the 120-seat parliament, a strong economy and reluctance so far from the public to protest en masse, pundits here said Israel's master politician could yet manoeuvre out of the crisis.

Mr Olmert's ability to do so could hinge largely on public reaction. An initial mass demonstration is scheduled in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

Monday's partial report accused Mr Olmert of "serious failure in exercising judgement, responsibility and prudence," of acting "hastily" and personally contributing to "over-ambitious" and unfeasible war aims.

Israel failed to achieve its two main objectives during the war.

The first was to rescue two soldiers, whose capture in a cross-border raid by Hezbollah triggered the conflict. The second was to eliminate Hezbollah's ability to threaten Israel with rockets, 4,000 of which rained down on the country, sending a million Israelis fleeing the north and killing dozens of civilians.