Is­rael

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One -

Al­though the op­po­si­tion Likud Party tabled a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion af­ter the res­ig­na­tion, a par­lia­ment mem­ber­fromthe­gov­ern­ing­coali­tion sug­gested that Mr. Olmert and De­fense Min­is­ter Amir Peretz fol­low the ex­am­ple set by Gen. Ha­lutz.

“The fail­ure of the Le­banon war can’tstopatthemil­i­taryech­e­lon,”said par­lia­ment mem­ber Za­hava Galon from the left-wing Meretz-Yachad party. “The po­lit­i­cal ech­e­lon, which made­their­re­spon­si­blede­ci­sion­inthe first­place­to­go­to­war,must­go­home.”

Amil­i­tary­pan­eltha­tre­viewedthe Is­rael De­fense Forces’ per­for­mance dur­ing the war found a lack of lead­er­shipand­pre­pared­ness.Acom­mis­sionofin­quiryap­point­ed­bythep­rime min­is­ter has been hear­ing tes­ti­mony for months and is ex­pected to is­sue pre­lim­i­nary find­ings by March. Those con­clu­sions could prove to be the next vul­ner­a­ble point in Mr. Olmert’s ten­ure.

Inad­di­tion,Mr.Olmer­tis­brac­ing for a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion on sus­pi­cions that as fi­nance min­is­ter last yearhetinkered­with­apri­va­ti­za­tion ten­der for Bank Leumi Ltd. to ben­e­fit a busi­ness­man bid­ding on the com­pany.

Is­rael’s state at­tor­ney and the comptroller’sof­ficear­ere­view­ingsix other sus­pected cor­rup­tion cases again­st­thep­rimem­i­nis­ter,ac­cord­ing totheHa’aret­znews­pa­per.Fiveother min­is­ters or leg­is­la­tors from Mr. Olmert’s Kadima party have been im­pli­cated in var­i­ous in­quiries.

“It’s a dis­grace. One of the big­gest dan­gers to the state of Is­rael is [cor­rup­tion]. It’s no less se­ri­ous than the Ira­nian threat,” said La­bor Party mem­ber Ophir Pines-Paz.

A poll pub­lished in Ha’aretz in­di­cated that Kadima’s strength in the 120-mem­ber par­lia­ment would shrink from 29 seats to 12 if elec­tions were held to­day.

Mr. Olmert is the fourth con­sec­u­tive sit­ting Is­raeli prime min­is­ter to face cor­rup­tion charges. In­ves­ti­ga­tions against Ariel Sharon, Ehud BarakandBen­jam­inNe­tanyahuwere closed with­out in­dict­ment.

Twoweek­sago,po­licean­nounced an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into sus­pected cor­rup­tion at the Is­rael Tax Author­ity. Thein­quirycouldim­pli­cateaformer top Olmert aide.

Thecor­rup­tion­charge­shave­com­bined with wide­spread dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the war to feed sus­pi­cion of politi­cians and pub­lic ser­vants.

In the first weeks af­ter a U.N.-bro­kered cease-fire, Mr. Olmert, Gen. Ha­lutzandMr.Peret­z­face­dres­ig­na­tion calls from par­lia­ment mem­bers and a grass-roots move­ment of re­servistswho­had­foughtinthe­war.As timepassed,the­p­rotest­squi­etedand Mr. Olmert seemed to bol­ster his coali­tion with the ad­di­tion of a new part­ner.

The Ha­lutz res­ig­na­tion might makeit­mored­if­fi­cult­forMr.Olmert to re­sume busi­ness as usual. Is­raeli com­men­ta­tors have re­ferred to the three men as a “the holy trin­ity,” in whicheach­fig­ure’spo­lit­i­cal­fateisde- pen­dent on the oth­ers.

“You have a pro­gres­sion head­ing up­wards. Now that Ha­lutz is go­ing, the sense of the pub­lic de­mand for tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity moves up a notch,”saidYos­siAlpher,co-ed­i­to­rof theIs­raeli-Pales­tini­anopin­ion­jour­nal Bit­ter­lemons.org.“His­dayscouldbe num­bered as prime min­is­ter. He is cer­tain­ly­lookingat­some­sev­eretests to his abil­ity to hang in there.”

The­fall­out­fromthe1973YomKip­pur War, in which Egypt and Syria launched a sur­prise at­tack on Is­raeli forces, could be an omi­nous prece­dent for the prime min­is­ter. Af­ter mil­i­tary Chief of Staff David Elazar re­signe­datthere­c­om­men­da­tionofa state com­mis­sion of in­quiry, pub­lic pres­sure even­tu­ally forced Prime Min­is­ter Golda Meir and De­fense Min­is­ter Moshe Dayan to step down.

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