Olmert looks to counter Lebanon War criticism

Monday, April 23, 2007 |  by Staff Writer
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is preparing a media blitz to counter what is expected to be harsh criticism of his leadership when the Winograd Commission into the handling of the Second Lebanon War publishes its interim findings on Sunday.

Olmert's bureau chief, Oved Yehezkel, is coordinating an effort involving Kadima Party lawmakers that is aimed at blunting calls for the government's resignation that are certain to follow publication of the report, according to Ha'aretz.

Opposition and even some coalition lawmakers, a number of non-government organizations and the bereaved parents of soldiers killed during the war say Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz mismanaged the conflict and sacrificed military victories for diplomatic considerations.

They are backed by a large majority of the general public, if opinion polls conducted since last summer are anything to go by.

But Olmert insists the primary goals of the war were achieved, and that while he did make some mistakes, his leadership during the crisis was as good or better than anyone else could have provided.

The prime minister claims that the Hizballah terrorist organization no longer maintains positions along Israel's northern border, and has been severely curtailed in its activities by the presence of some 26,000 Lebanese and UN troops based in southern Lebanon as part of the ceasefire agreement that ended the war.

His detractors, meanwhile, point out that when fighting broke out in mid-July 2006 following the abduction of two IDF reservists along the northern border, Olmert vowed to destroy Hizballah as a fighting force capable of threatening Israel and to secure the freedom of the hostages.

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