Will Olmert Survive Again?

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - With the clock ticking down to Wednesday's release of the Winograd Commission Report, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is calling on his party to unite behind him, while key coalition players are positioning themselves for the fallout.

The government-appointed committee took nearly 17 months to evaluate the handling of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. On Wednesday, Israelis will learn the Commission's final conclusions.

The interim report covered the first five days of the war, which went relatively well for Israel. At the beginning of the war, Israelis across the political spectrum stood behind the government's plan to rescue the two kidnapped reservists, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, from Lebanese-based Hezbollah terrorists who'd begun firing Katyusha rockets on northern Israel.

Nonetheless, the interim report exposed poor decisionmaking on the part of the prime minister, defense minister and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of general staff in the first five days of fighting.

When the report was released nine months ago, on April 30, Olmert's approval ratings fell into the low single digits and even into the negative a couple of times with the 3 percent margin of error factored in.

Livni Calls for Olmert's Resignation

Shortly after the report's release, Israeli television carried live coverage of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's press conference in which she called on Olmert to resign.

After about a week, Livni folded, retracting her words and announcing she'd decided to stay in the government.

Meanwhile, when Ehud Barak brought Labor into the government in June, he pledged to stay only until the final report was published, when he would resign as defense minister and pull his party out.

In the end, the report's release was rescheduled for Wednesday, January 30, and Barak is now undecided about what he'll do "for the good of the country."

Don't Create Camps

At a party faction meeting, Olmert called on Kadima members to stick together.

"I don't expect problems within Kadima following the publication of the Winograd Report," Olmert told them.

"We must not create camps within Kadima. We proved that we are able to act in situations that demand consideration and understanding," he said.

Meanwhile, Livni took some flak from Cabinet ministers Sunday, particularly fellow Kadima members, for planning to meet later in the day with bereaved parents and reserve soldiers calling for Olmert's resignation.

While Vice Premier Haim Ramon (Kadima) supported Livni, he warned her of falling into a political trap.

"Let's not fall into the trap of our adversaries who want to topple us," Ramon said. "Our opponents are trying to create a divide between the bereaved families and the reservists, and the government. We must work together to support those who participate in the process," he said.

After the meeting, Livni defended her actions.

"There is no right time for a meeting such as this," Livni said. "A meeting with combat soldiers and bereaved families is the bare minimum required, even if it's difficult," she said. "I didn't evade these meetings up to today and I won't evade them now. I intend to listen to them, and it definitely won't be easy," she said.

Families were reservedly encouraged afterward.

"Whether it is pressuring Livni or appealing to the public, we will make our voices heard until this prime minister goes home," reserve soldier Ronen Shoval said.

"If Kadima doesn't take it [upon itself] to topple Olmert, then Labor will be the party to step up and take matters into its own hands," he said.

According to Shoval, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) said Olmert's time in office is waning.

"One way or another, Olmert would [will] go home…if Kadima doesn't do it, then Labor will," he reportedly told the soldiers.

Ehud Olmert is a political survivor who is counting on his party to stick with him while he winds his way through the path that awaits him after the publication of the Winograd Commission's final report.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news service, Haaretz

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Tzippe Barrow

Tzippe Barrow

CBN News.com - Jerusalem Bureau

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