War Report Calls Into Question Israeli Leader's Political Survival

Tuesday, May 1, 2007; 4:14 AM


Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM -- Ehud Olmert slumped against the back of his chair, then leaned forward to grasp the explosive report that could end his political career.

The expressionless Israeli prime minister stared straight ahead as the chairman of a government investigation of last summer's war in Lebanon read the findings, which cited "a severe failure in the lack of judgment, responsibility and caution."

After hearing the results of the inquiry, Olmert vowed the failures "will be remedied" and insisted he would remain in office.

"It would not be correct to resign," he said in a brief televised statement from his office, "and I have no intention of resigning."

Olmert is likely to survive for now, despite the extraordinarily harsh report.

His best hope for remaining in office appeared to rest in his coalition partners' fear of new elections, which polls predict would bring opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu of the hard-line Likud Party to power. Olmert's centrist Kadima Party might seek to replace him, which would put the popular foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, in a good position to become Israel's second female prime minister.

While Olmert's fate was uncertain, Eitan Cabel of the Labor party, a minister without portfolio, said through a spokesman Tuesday that he was resigning to protest the critical findings. Cabel was the first member of the government to step down following the report.

The report capped a six-month investigation into the war, which erupted July 12 when Hezbollah guerrillas killed three soldiers and captured two others in a cross-border raid. In 34 days of fighting, Israel failed to secure the return of the captured soldiers or to prevent Hezbollah from firing thousands of rockets into Israel.

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