Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Israeli commission will not recommend that Olmert resign

FINAL REPORT Some critics predicted that the Winograd Commission would pull its punches, while the prime minister vowed to stay in office


Israel's commission of inquiry into last year's war in Lebanon will not recommend that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resign, despite censuring his government's handling of the campaign, an Israeli newspaper said yesterday.

The Winograd Commission, which accused Olmert in an April interim report of lacking "judgment, responsibility and prudence" in his decision to go to war against Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, has been expected by many of the government's critics to call for his ouster in its conclusions.

But the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, citing sources on the five-member panel of jurists and ex-generals, said the final report would stop short of "drawing personal conclusions" that could give formal imprimatur to public demands that Olmert quit.

A Winograd Commission spokesman declined comment.

Olmert, who unlike several of his predecessors lacks a military pedigree, has argued that the war improved Israel's security by banishing Iranian and Syrian-backed Hezbollah from its frontier strongholds and boosting a UN peacekeeper force.

But Hezbollah managed to fire 4,000 missiles into northern Israel, driving a million residents to shelters and shaking the Jewish state's belief in its military superiority in the region.

Olmert has vowed to survive the Commission reports' fallout and serve out his term in office.

Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon welcomed the Winograd Commission's reported reprieve, saying it would help Olmert keep together his fractious coalition government as he prepares for a US-led peace conference with the Palestinians next month.

Some Olmert critics predicted that the Winograd Commission would pull its punches, noting that it was appointed by the government despite public calls for a more independent panel.

The popularity of the man hailed as one of Israel's most able politicians when he officially assumed office last May sunk to single-digits earlier this year as a result of last year's inconclusive war in Lebanon and a string of graft scandals involving senior government officials.

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