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.