Israel's Olmert Says He Won't Resign

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is refusing to resign Monday after a special commission harshly criticized his leadership during last July's war in Lebanon. The two Israeli soldiers whose kidnapping sparked the war in Lebanon are still not free.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

I'm Madeleine Brand.

In a few minutes, the web of secrecy around "Spiderman 3." It could be the most expensive movie ever made.

CHADWICK: First, a special Israeli commission has issued a report sharply critical of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and his top aides, in last summer's war against Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon. The report from the Winograd Commission appointed by Mr. Olmert has sparked new calls for his resignation, but he insists he will stay.

NPR's Linda Gradstein is in Jerusalem with this report.

LINDA GRADSTEIN: The interim report says Olmert displayed a severe failure of judgment, responsibility and caution when he ordered the offensive in Lebanon July 12th, after Hezbollah guerillas captured two Israeli soldiers on the northern border. Today's report says the prime minister acted without having a comprehensive plan. It also sharply criticizes Israel's defense minister, Amir Peretz, and former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz for entering the war unprepared. Halutz has already resigned.

And after the report's publication, calls for Olmert and Peretz to step down are already being heard. Olmert insists he won't resign, and his aides say they're sure he will weather the storm. Israeli analysts say his future depends on the public reaction to the report. The prime minister already has an approval rating in the single digits, partly because of the Lebanon war and partly because of a series of corruption scandals that have dogged his government.

A demonstration is planned for Thursday in Tel Aviv to demand Olmert's resignation, and organizers say they expect tens of thousands of Israelis to take part.

Linda Grandstein, NPR News, Jerusalem.

BRAND: As Linda reported, two Israeli soldiers were captured by Hezbollah militants last July, the moments that started the Israel-Lebanon war.

CHADWICK: Late last week, Hezbollah put up a billboard in southern Lebanon with photos of those soldiers - Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev - in southern Lebanon. We talked to Private Goldwasser's father last year, and again today.

BRAND: Shlomo Goldwasser, welcome to the program. And tell me, what were your feelings? What did you think when you saw your son on that billboard last week?

Mr. SHLOMO GOLDWASSER (Father of Ehud Goldwasser): Well, this billboard was a message not to us, and it was clear to me that those who kidnapped my son, sending a message to the families of the Hezbollah and Lebanon as prisoners who are in Israel. And they have a problem there because Hassan Nasrallah promised them that their sons will be at home; and they are keeping asking him, where are our sons like we are asking our government.

BRAND: So you're talking about a prisoner exchange.

Mr. GOLDWASSER: Exactly.

BRAND: What's going on with that?

Mr. GOLDWASSER: At the moment there is a mediator, and he's going from us to them giving offers. They answer. They're giving their offers. And it's a very slow process.

BRAND: You know, last time you and I spoke it was last August. And I asked you, do you believe in the government, in the Israeli government? Do you believe that Ehud Olmert and the government will be able to get your son back? That was back in August, and you said, somewhat optimistically, this is our government and I hope that they will do what they say. Now, some nine months later, what do you think?

Mr. GOLDWASSER: Nine months later? Nine months later you see what tsunami is going on in Israel now. I and the families, we the families, we are not dealing with history. The reasons and the conclusions so forth happens is not so interesting to us. Why it happened? Why the war and - we are interested in the future. We are interested in actions to free our sons.

BRAND: Do you…

Mr. GOLDWASSER: We know that the government is doing, we know. And we are - at this moment, we are expecting for more.

BRAND: Do you blame Ehud Olmert?

Mr. GOLDWASSER: We are telling him that we are expecting more than what is done. But you must not forget for a second who are those people who kidnapped ours sons. Our morals and values are meaning nothing to them. And you can trade with them like merchandise, you know, and they're very cruel.

BRAND: Do you believe your son is still alive?

Mr. GOLDWASSER: I believe. I have no proof, but I believe. He's my son. You know, if I believe that my son is not alive, I pull out. I believe that he's alive. Yes.

BRAND: Shlomo Goldwasser, the father of Ehud Goldwasser. Mr. Goldwasser, thanks for joining us.

Mr. GOLDWASSER: Thank you.

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Israeli Report Dissects 'Failures' in Lebanon

A report on Israel's invasion of Lebanon last summer is highly critical of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and spreads blame to his defense minister and former military chief of staff, who resigned in the aftermath of the attack.

The words "fail" and "failure" are used more than 150 times in the preliminary report by a government-appointed committee. The criticisms add up to "serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence" on the part of the prime minister, according to the report, which stops short of calling for resignations.

After receiving a copy of the report Monday, Olmert pledged that "these failures will be remedied." But the opposition Likud party and some Israelis are calling for his resignation, and his approval ratings are at an all-time low for an Israeli prime minister.

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