Olmert won't resign over war report

Updated: 2008-02-01 10:12

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signaled Thursday that he has no intention of stepping down after an inquiry held his government and the military responsible for the failures of Israel's war against Hezbollah.

Amir Peretz who was Israel's Defense Minister during Israel's war in Lebanon in 2006, speaks during a press conference in Tel-Aviv, Israel, Thursday Jan. 31, 2008. [Agencies]

Polls show most Israelis want Olmert to resign, and a hard-line opposition leader demanded that he leave office.

But Olmert showed no signs of backing down Thursday at a meeting of his Kadima party. His hold on power appears firm, with his main coalition partner unlikely to pull out of the government for fear of losing the majority to the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud in the elections that would likely result.

That gives Olmert some room to pursue the Palestinian peace treaty he pledged to try to broker by the end of the year.

Netanyahu on Thursday demanded Olmert's resignation. "He refuses to take responsibility, he refuses to display personal integrity or leadership and refuses to do what the overwhelming majority of the public expect him to do," Netanyahu said.

A poll published Thursday by the Maagar Mohot agency found 60 percent of Israelis thought Olmert should resign, while 19 percent thought he should remain in office. The poll questioned 474 Israelis and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

A poll in the Maariv daily had similar findings.

But Olmert's party and allies are sticking by him after concluding that doing otherwise could mean being voted out of office themselves.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak, the head of Labor, had said he would remove Olmert's main partner from the coalition if Olmert did not resign after the Winograd Commission's final report was issued this week.

That would remove Olmert's parliamentary majority and probably force an election.

But polls indicate that if elections were held now, Olmert's centrist Kadima and the dovish Labor would both lose strength, handing victory to Likud.

Barak now says he will study the report and act in the best interests of the nation.

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