Sat, Aug 26, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Majority of Israelis want Olmert to quit: news poll

AGENCIES , JERUSALEM

A majority of Israelis want Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and army chief Dan Halutz to resign over failings of the war in Lebanon, an opinion poll revealed yesterday.

Published in the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper, the survey found that 63 percent of Israelis think the increasingly unpopular Olmert should resign, compared with only 29 percent who would rather he stay.

The prime minister's approval ratings were at an all-time low since his government took office nearly four months ago, with 74 percent of respondents dissatisfied with his leadership, compared with 26 percent satisfied.

The poll also found that 74 percent of people believe Peretz -- a man whose previous military experience was limited to national service -- should resign and that 54 percent favored chief of staff Halutz also stepping down.

Yesterday's poll also highlighted a strong swing to the right, so much so that the opposition -- which endured a crushing defeat in the March 28 election -- could win any general election held immediately.

The Likud party led by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on track to jump from 12 to 20 seats in the 120-member parliament, with the far-right Russian-orientated Yisrael Beitenu going from 11 to 17 members of parliament.

On the other hand, Olmert's centrist Kadima Party would slide from 29 to 17 seats and its main coalition partner, the center-left Labor, would drop from 19 to 11 elected MPs in the Knesset, the poll found.

Nevertheless, only 27 percent of Israelis actually want snap elections, with 50 percent saying they would prefer right-wing opposition parties brought into the current government.

Many Israelis view a UN-brokered ceasefire backed by Olmert as a failure for Israel because Hezbollah's leadership was left standing and the two Israeli soldiers, whose capture by Hezbollah on July 12 sparked the war, were still in captivity.

Israelis have also retained their overall confidence in their army -- the most powerful military in the Middle East -- with the institution enjoying support levels of 82 percent, the poll found.

The poll, which was carried out by an independent institute, was based on a representative sample of 500 people.

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