Tuesday, 1 May 2007

He won't be war casualty, Olmert vows

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, Tuesday, May 1st 2007

By Matthew Kalman Special To The News

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was fighting for his political life last night after a damning report found him personally responsible for a series of "severe failures" in last year's war against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

But Olmert, who was elected with a large majority just over a year ago, said in a televised statement that he would not step down.

"It would be incorrect to resign and I do not intend to do so," he said.

"There were failures by the main decision-makers with myself at their head," Olmert admitted, but said he would work to correct the problems outlined in the 300-page Winograd Committee report.

Members of Olmert's governing coalition joined calls from opposition lawmakers for him to resign over his mishandling of the war in which more than 1 million Israelis were forced to flee their homes and live in underground shelters for a month as Hezbollah rained thousands of rockets on northern Israel.

More than 150 Israelis and 1,000 Lebanese were killed in the war, which began last July 12 when two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and eight more were killed in a cross-border ambush by Hezbollah guerrillas.

The report accused him of making rushed decisions at the outset of the war, and for failing to consult with either military or nonmilitary experts.

Amid rumors of a growing mutiny within his own party and the possible fall of his coalition government, demonstrators began gathering outside Olmert's official residence in Jerusalem to demand his resignation.

The acid test will come Thursday, when critics have promised to bring hundreds of thousands of Israelis to a demonstration in Tel Aviv to force Olmert to quit.

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