Da The Guardian del 15/09/2006
Originale su http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1872918,00.html

Pressure mounts on Olmert to quit

· Israeli leader under attack for Lebanon war failings
· Leading politicians face scandal accusations

di Rory McCarthy

Jerusalem - Israel's former military chief launched a devastating attack on the country's leadership yesterday, calling for the prime minister and the top general to quit over failings in the Lebanon war.

The challenge from Moshe Ya'alon, who was Israel's chief of staff until June last year, comes as several senior figures, including the prime minister, the president and the justice minister, face accusations in a series of embarrassing scandals over corruption and impropriety.

In an interview in the Ha'aretz newspaper, Gen Ya'alon rounded on the government for launching a costly ground invasion of Lebanon in the final days of the conflict. "It had no substantive security-political goal, only a spin goal," he said. "It was meant to supply the missing victory picture. You don't do that." Thirty-three soldiers were killed in the ground operation alone. Public pressure has mounted over shortcomings in the military action, not least the failure to score a comprehensive victory over Hizbullah or to retrieve the two soldiers whose capture on July 12 triggered the 34-day conflict.

The general said the current chief of staff, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, should have quit immediately after the war, and was only slightly less tough on the defence minister, Amir Peretz, saying he should be replaced because he lacked military experience.

Yet he reserved his strongest criticism for the prime minister, Ehud Olmert. "Going to war was scandalous, and he is directly responsible for that. The war's management was a failure and he is responsible for that," Gen Ya'alon said. "He was warned and did not heed the warnings. Therefore he must resign."

However stark the headlines, the three men believe they can cling on to their jobs in a country where politicians are adept at surviving seemingly career-ending crises.

Aside from criticism over the war, there are several other potentially damaging investigations brewing, starting from the top with President Moshe Katsav, who has been questioned five times by police in a sexual harassment case. He stepped down for a day yesterday to allow a new supreme court chief justice to be sworn in without being overshadowed by controversy. Mr Katsav denies the accusations.

Haim Ramon resigned as justice minister last month and went on trial this week accused of kissing a female soldier against her will. He pleaded not guilty. An MP in Mr Olmert's party, Tzachi Hanegbi, was told will be put on trial for fraud, bribery and other charges. He has also protested his innocence.

Even Mr Olmert himself is under investigation by the state comptroller over claims that he bought a home in Jerusalem at well below the market rate in return for political influence and that he made illegal political appointments when trade and industry minister two years ago. Mr Olmert also denies the allegations.

Only one leading figure has fallen on his sword since the end of the war with Hizbullah - General Udi Adam, the head of the military's Northern Command. After suffering weeks of criticism for his apparent hesitancy and caution during the conflict, his resignation on Wednesday won him praise for his integrity.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a cabinet minister, applauded his decision and called on the chief of staff to follow suit. "I expect Chief of staff Lt Gen Dan Halutz will do the exact same thing that Adam did and announce his resignation," he said. A group of reservist generals were due to meet Gen Halutz this morning and would be calling on him to resign, Ha'aretz reported.

The next challenge will come with findings of the inquiry into the war. Mr Olmert has shunned calls to hold a high-profile state commission of inquiry. Instead there will be an investigation led by a retired judge into the handling of the conflict.

Gen Adam, furious at being sidelined during the war, could trigger a round of infighting. "This will be a generals' war. Many of his arrows will be surely aimed at Halutz," Ze'ev Schiff, Israel's most respected military analyst, wrote yesterday.

Cameron Brown, an analyst at the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya, said he expected Gen Halutz and Mr Olmert to fight on. But if a scandal was proven, or if the inquiry revealed high-level mistakes during the war, they might be forced out.

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