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Lebanon War Inquiry Could Topple Israeli PM

An Israeli inquiry into last year's Lebanon war could topple Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel is in political turmoil after the commission of inquiry declared that it is taking aim at the national leadership.

The commission of inquiry into the war in Lebanon announced that it will include "personal findings" on Prime Minister Olmert. Israeli politicians and the media believe that means Mr. Olmert will be condemned for the way he handled the war, which is widely seen as a failure.

Despite a 34-day air and ground assault, the Israeli army failed to defeat some 5,000 Hezbollah guerrillas in South Lebanon. In addition, reserve soldiers returning from the battlefield complained of poor preparations and a lack of food and ammunition.

The interim report is due out next month and the final one at an undisclosed date. There is broad speculation that a critical report could force Mr. Olmert to resign under the pressure of public opinion.

Former Israeli general Uzi Dayan expects the report to come down hard on the prime minister, the defense minister and the commander of the Israel Defense Forces who already resigned.

"They made their mistake in the war by decision making, not knowing how to use, how to operate a big military force like the IDF, and finally the neglect of the home front," he said. "Their big failure is no leadership, no strategy."

But officials in Mr. Olmert's Kadima party are adopting a wait and see attitude.

"It's all speculation," Cabinet Minister Roni Bar-On told Israel Radio. He said there is no indication that the commission will blame the prime minister for the failure of the war or recommend that he step down.

But just a year after Mr. Olmert won a landslide election victory, it is very unlikely that he will complete his four-year term. Israeli media say the collapse of the government and early elections appear inevitable.