Some 150,000 Israelis rally in Tel Aviv to tell prime minister to quit over Lebanon War failings

The anti-government protesters represented the entire political spectrum plus many of the non-affiliated. For the first time, left and right joined hands. Some placards called for an early election. Politicians were barred from addressing the apolitical gathering.
debkafile: Barring the unforeseen, Olmert has bought a one-to-four month lease of life by taming the revolt in his Kadima party.
Foreign minister Tzipi Livni, the deputy prime minister who led the field of contenders to take over from Ehud Olmert, was roundly castigated for her weak stand against him. In their interview Tuesday, she politely advised him to step down, but said she would stay in government. The revolt which sprang up in Olmert’s Kadima party Monday under the shock-impact of the Winograd war panel’s condemnation of the prime minister’s handling of last year’s Lebanon war melted away. Although his opinion rating is down to zero and 65% of the public polled call on him to step down, Olmert was able to turn the tables by uniting his own party behind him and holding the government coalition together – at least for the short term.
Avigdor Yizthaki, chairman of the Kadima faction and coalition, stepped down from both posts in protest against the prime ministers refusal to accept accountability for the failings of the Lebanon War. Labor minister Eytan Kabel quit the government earlier.
Olmert has survived for the moment, but he is not out of the woods yet. He must have counted the numbers turning out for a mass protest calling him to quit summoned Thursday night in Tel Aviv by the reservists’ movement and bereaved families.
Before this, the Knesset’s emergency session on the war report which did not hold a vote – at the prime minister’s insistence. Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who has so far kept out of the crisis, delivered a brief address. A general election, he said, was imperative to bring in a government competent to repair the damage wrought by the incumbent Olmert administration.
Next, the prime minister will be watching the leadership primaries held by his leading coalition partner, Labour, at the end of the month. Amir Peretz expects to be displaced as party leader and defense minister. His successor may opt out of the Olmert government and spell its demise.
Then, too, the Olmert government’s handling of the Lebanon War last summer came in for scathing criticism in the interim report submitted Monday, April 30 by the team led by Judge Eliahu Winograd. But no demands were made for heads to roll. The final report due out in August 2007 is expected to be less kind to individual decision-makers. So the prime minister and his government can only count their future in months – not years.

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