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Israeli Defense Minister Withdraws Threat to Topple Government

Israel's government has survived a scathing report on the Lebanon War of 2006. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, an about-face by a top Cabinet minister has given the government a new lease on life.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has withdrawn his threat to topple the government over a scathing report on the Lebanon War published last week. Barak said last year that he would demand the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after an official inquiry commission issued its final report.

The commission criticized the government and army for "serious failings and flaws" that prevented Israel from achieving a victory over Hezbollah guerrillas, despite a 34-day air and ground assault on Lebanon. But the report largely spared Mr. Olmert, saying he made reasonable decisions that he thought were in the best interests of the country.

Therefore, Barak said he would remain on the job.

He told reporters he could do the most for the state of Israel not by toppling the government, but rather by working to fix the problems the report exposed.

Barak said Israel faces immense challenges including the Islamic militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and an Iran that is seeking nuclear capability.

If Barak pulled his Labor Party out of the government, Mr. Olmert would have been stripped of his parliamentary majority and probably forced to call elections about two years ahead of schedule. But in the wake of Barak's decision, the government remains firmly intact.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Mr. Olmert said he, too, would work to fix the mistakes exposed by the inquiry commission.

He said the report is not a source of happiness, but it provides an opportunity to improve Israel's security and move the country forward diplomatically.

With a stable government, Mr. Olmert can push ahead with his goal of achieving a peace agreement with the Palestinians by the end of the year.