Barak stays at Olmert's side, public wants PM to resign

Monday, February 04, 2008 |  by Staff Writer

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday further boosted the survivability of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he announced he would not pull his Labor Party out of the ruling coalition.

Barak had made withdrawal from the government a core plank in his election platform during last year's Labor primaries. He vowed to fulfill that promise following last week's publication of the Winograd Commission investigation into the handling of the 2006 war against Lebanon's Hizballah terrorist militia.

But when the Winograd report failed to personally indict Olmert over his mismanagement of the war effort, Barak backtracked and indicated he would not be the one to cut short the current government's term.

Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem ahead of Sunday's cabinet meeting, Barak said he was well aware of the promise he made last year, but insisted the situation today had changed in a way that negated his previous pledge.

Barak's decision was blasted by lawmakers from across the political spectrum, including members of his own Labor Party.

A poll carried out late last week after the publication of the Winograd report revealed that a majority of the Israeli public believes that even if new elections are not brought about by a Labor exit from the government, Olmert should resign as prime minister.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents in the survey conducted by Israel's Ma'ariv daily newspaper said Olmert is no longer fit to serve as prime minister in light of the report's conclusions.

The Winograd report sharply contradicted Olmert's repeated assertion that Israel scored a significant victory in the Second Lebanon War. According to the commission's findings, severe failures by both the military and political leaderships resulted in Israel losing the war to Hizballah, despite vast advantages in manpower, firepower and technology.

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