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OLMERT UNDER FIRE

Mounting Criticism Over Prime Minister Olmerts Conduct Of War

Kadima MK Zachi Henegbi: 'Israel Must Reject U.S.- French Resolution'

Likud MK Yuval Steinitz: 'The Resolution Is Total Victory For Hezballah - If Olmert Signs He Should Resign And Call An Early Election'

IDF soldiers in Lebanon

The emerging U.S. - French resolution at the U.N. is arousing sharp criticism in Israel. Politicians from the coalition and opposition as well as the media are blasting the cease-fire proposal as well as Prime Minister Olmerts conduct of the war.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

A shockwave of criticism is about to hitIsraelat the end of the war with Hezballah.

While IDF soldiers were fighting and dying in south Lebanon , criticism of the government and the military command has been muted. The war effort was of paramount importance. But with the end result now apparent in the U.S. French proposal at the U.N., critics are taking off the gloves. Ari Shavit, a leading columnist in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper has even called on Prime Minister Olmert to resign. In his view, Olmert 'has capitulated without condition to Hezballah'. Shavit describes the PM's conduct:

'It is impossible to bury 120 Israelis in cemeteries, to sit one million Israelis in bomb shelters for a month, to whittle way Israel's deterrent power, to draw near the next war, and then to say - Oops, it was a mistake, I didn't think about it, that was not my intention. Pass me a cigar please'.

How on target is Shavit's searing diatribe. The paper carries a poll indicating that most Israelis do not believe the country won the war. Thirty percent say it did not while only 20% feel it did. Forty-three percent called it a draw. That means that a full 73% do not believe that the Jewish state was victorious. The poll was taken before the terms of the U.N. proposal were finalized. The critics are blasting various aspects.

Knesset Member Zachi Hanegbi of Olmerts own Kadima party says Israelmust reject the U.N. proposal. Hanegbi chairs the important Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Knesset.  The former committee chair MK Yuval Steinitz of the Likud charges the U.N. proposal is a catastrophe:

It is a total victory for Hezballah. They will eventually take control of the Shaaba farms and the lower half ofMount Hermon . This will be their reward for terrorizing Israeli civilians and killing and kidnapping Israeli soldiers. The new resolution even waters down the former 15-59 that called for the dismantling of Hezballah. Now they will only be disarmed only south of the Litani River. Moreover, the Lebanese Army and the foreign troops will never confront the guerrillas. This new resolution must be totally rejected by the government.

But what it means a rift with the U.S.?

Its better to have no agreement than one that is conceived as a victory for Hezballah. It's very dangerous in that it will lead to a new round with Hezballah and maybe inviteSyria to follow suit and start rocketing Israelas well.

How would you assess Prime Minister Olmerts handling of the war:

Awfulhe started well with the aerial campaign to take out the Hezballah headquarters in Beirut and training bases elsewhere. But then he became cautious and hesitant. Olmert should have done the obvious and ordered the IDF to advance to the Litani River and prevent most of the rocketing of Israeli civilians. Israelis such a tiny country that defense doctrine has always dictated a rapid transfer of the battle to enemy territory.

Is it too late now? I dont know - a massive ground operation is needed to eradicate Hezballah in south Lebanon. No one will do it for Israel.

Should Prime Minister Olmert resign? If he signs this new resolution, he should resign and call a new election. This has been the most badly handled war in Israel s history.  

On the other hand, government officials say the emerging terms of the cease-fire will lay the groundwork for a new order in Lebanon . The Lebanese, who abdicated their country to Hezballah and Iran , will now be ready to retrieve their state with the aid of the international community. Moreover, the diplomatic solution will save the lives of some 300 IDF soldiers who might have been killed by advancing to the Litani River.

Only the future will reveal who was right.

David Essing

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