Olmert: I've no intention of resigning, will implement report conclusions
Kadima MK: Olmert must ask himself if he is able to lead government; Meretz MKs call on PM, Peretz to resign.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed Monday night that he would not resign, despite the publication of the Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War, which the accused him of "severe failures" in handling the conflict.
"It would not be correct to resign," he said in a brief televised statement from his office, "and I have no intention of resigning."
Instead, Olmert said, he would work to implement the conclusions of the report, calling a special cabinet session for Wednesday to begin the work.
"This is a serious and difficult report. There were mistakes by the decision-makers, we need to start to fix the shortcomings; there's much to be done," he said.
"The presentation of the report opens a new chapter of fixing mistakes and learning lessons," he went on.
"This evening, I am thinking of the families who lost their loved ones, I am thinking of the wounded and the suffering they have endured. I am thinking of [captured soldiers] Udi [Goldwasser] and Eldad [Regev] and Gilad [Shalit] like all of the nation of Israel. I believe that we have to return them home quickly."
Olmert concluded by expressing his gratitude to the Winograd panel and its members.
On Monday evening, Olmert also told cabinet ministers from his Kadima party that he has no intention of resigning.
"It is right to state as clearly as possible: The report lists difficulties, failures and mistakes by all the leaders, including the prime minister," Cabinet Secretary Israel Maimon told Israel Radio ahead of the meeting. "The question is what do we do now." He also maintained that Olmert would not quit.
Responding to the report, Likud MK Yisrael Katz called on the current leadership to resign, saying that Likud chairman and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu would be a better choice.
The partial report, covering the decision to go to war and the first six days of the conflict, was handed to Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz at 4 P.M.; the committee made its findings public at a special press conference an hour later.
The report also leveled criticism at Peretz for his lack of "knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters." Former IDF chief Dan Halutz drew fire for being "unprepared" and for failing to "present to the political leaders the internal debates within the IDF concerning the fit between the stated goals and the authorized modes of actions."
MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) said in response to the report that, "the prime minister must ask himself, in light of the circumstances, if he has the authority and ability to lead the government now, and if he has the power to repair the failures that were revealed. If the answer to both these questions is negative, he will have to reach his own conclusions. According to him, the Winograd report has immense weight among the public, and now it is clear that the committee did not give anyone any breaks."
Infrastructure Minister Eli Yishai of Shas said that it is imperative to implement the report rather than making it into an internal battle.
Labor MK Matan Vilnai also cautioned against infighting. "Now is not the time for political battles," he said. "The future of the political figures will be determined by the public."
But the chairman of the National Religious Party Zevulun Orlev said that the Winograd Committee did not leave Olmert any choice but to resign. MK Yuval Steinitz of Likud echoed the sentiment.
Likud MK Silvan Shalom said that, "the report contains some of the most severe charges ever pointed at a prime minister. The prime defense ministers' lack of experience was crucial, and created a situation in which decisions were made hastily and without good judgment."
Minister Eitan Cabel of Labor told Channel 2 television that the report was "harsh and lethal," and hinted that he may resign from the cabinet in light of the commission's findings.
Lawmakers from the left-wing Meretz party were united in their calls for Olmert and Peretz to resign.
"Peretz mustn't vie for leadership of the Labor party or leadership of the government," said party chairman Yossi Beilin. "Olmert mustn't wait for the demonstrations, and the calls of the bereaved families. I he has a drop of national responsibility, he will announce his resignation."
"The harsh report points to Olmert's and Peretz's unequivocal failures, following which they must both resign," said MK Ran Cohen. "Otherwise, the public will seal their fate. The responsibility for the lives that were lost is placed on anyone that did not oppose the war. It is now clear that we, who did oppose the war since the first day, were right."
Meretz faction chair Zahava Gal-On also said that "Olmert and Peretz must go home."
Several left-wing activists gathered across from the prime minister's home after the publication of the report, calling for his resignation.
"I don't understand why the public needed a war probe committee only to reinforce that which it had heard with its own ears, and seen with its own eyes during the war," said Motti Ashkenazi. "The prime minister failed a severe failure, and that is something that everyone knows. There are issues on which the public must speak its mind, and the public may have needed to be told how to act by an official source. The fact is that to date, the public hasn't taken to the streets enough. I hope that the public received confirmation today, and that it will respond more defiantly."
U.S.: Olmert 'essential'
The White House had words of support Monday for Olmert, despite stating that the U.S. does not wish to comment on internal investigations within the Israeli government.
U.S. President George W. Bush "works very closely with Prime Minister Olmert, and thinks that he's essential in working toward a two-state solution. The president remains committed to it," said spokesman Tony Snow in a response to a question about the report.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah welcomed news of the critical findings.
"The report confirmed the inability of the Israeli political and military leadership to... confront Hezbollah," said Sheik Hassan Ezzeddine, Hezbollah's most senior political officer in southern Lebanon.
He predicted that political, public and military pressure would eventually force Olmert to step down.
"Olmert will not be able to stay put in the face of pressure from the military, opposition parties and the Israeli public," he said.
Palestinian officials, however, expressed concerns that the report would undermine Olmert and likely limit his ability to push forward with peace efforts.
"We hope that this report and the findings of this report will not further complicate and hinder attempts to revive the peace process," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.