Poll Shows Israeli PM Losing Support

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert leaves a ceremony for incoming Israeli Police Commissioner David Cohen in Jerusalem, May 1, 2007.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is resisting calls to resign after an official inquiry described his handling of last summer's Lebanon war as a failure.

A poll showed that 69 percent of Israelis believe Olmert should resign after an official inquiry condemned his waging of the war against Hezbollah, reports . The commission accused Olmert of "severe failure in judgment, responsibility and caution."

Cabinet member Eitan Cabel, a junior minister from the Labor Party, resigned after the report was released, saying, "Ehud Olmert must resign."

"I can no longer sit in a government led by Ehud Olmert," said Cabel.

Newspaper editorials and commentators agreed, saying he had lost the confidence of the Israeli people. The report "contains not even one lenient word to which the prime minister could cling in order to prolong his term," the Haaretz newspaper said in an editorial.

In other developments:

  • Palestinian security forces know the identity of the kidnappers of British reporter Alan Johnston, but are not going to use force to win his release, a Palestinian security chief said in an interview published Tuesday.Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, meanwhile, said he is working "quietly but actively" to release the 44-year old British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent.
  • Palestinian teachers in the West Bank have gone on strike to press for the payment of salaries that are long overdue. The teachers have not been paid in full since the international community imposed sanctions on the Islamic militant group Hamas when it took power a year ago. Hamas formed a unity government with Palestinian moderates in March in a bid to end the boycott. But Hamas refuses to renounce violence and recognize Israel, so sanctions remain in place.

    It was not clear whether Cabel's resignation would trigger other defections. Olmert's Kadima Party and Labor are the coalition's two biggest factions.

    "The Prime Minister is going to survive at least until the next investigation," analyst Gil Hoffman said.

    At an official event on Tuesday, Olmert nodded off several times while waiting to address the audience. On the dais, though, he was jocular and composed, but pointedly made no reference to the war probe.

    Olmert was only months on the job when the war broke out after Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon killed three soldiers and captured two others in a July 12 cross-border raid.

    Israel set out to retrieve the soldiers and crush Hezbollah, which had built up an arsenal of thousands of rockets following Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, ending an 18-year occupation.

    Neither objective was obtained during 34 days of fighting, and Israel was traumatized by nearly 4,000 rockets that bombarded northern communities.

    Between 1,035 and 1,191 Lebanese civilians and combatants were killed in the fighting, as were 119 Israeli soldiers and 39 civilians, according to official figures from the two sides.

    A U.N.-brokered cease-fire pushed Hezbollah away from Israel's border. But Israeli intelligence officials have warned the group is rearming with the help of its Iranian and Syrian backers.

    The inconclusive outcome of the war cracked apart the solid support that Olmert enjoyed when Israel went into battle. The criticism was stoked by reports from returning troops of confused orders, and shortages in equipment as basic as water and bullets.