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Israeli PM Admits He's Unpopular but Rejects Calls to Resign


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is brushing off polls which show the vast majority of the public wants him to resign. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Mr. Olmert's political fortunes have plummeted since the Lebanon War in July and August of last year.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admits that he has lost the support of the Israeli public.

"I'm an unpopular prime minister," Mr. Olmert said. "The polls say so and they are right. I am indeed an unpopular prime minister."

Mr. Olmert's approval rating has plunged to single digits in the wake of last year's Lebanon War, which was widely seen as a failure.

Despite a 34-day air and ground assault, the powerful Israeli army was unable to defeat 5,000 Hezbollah fighters entrenched in South Lebanon.

The prime minister's political fortunes took a turn for the worse this week, when the official commission of inquiry into the war announced that it would issue an interim report next month on Mr. Olmert's "personal responsibility."

Israeli politicians and the media believe that means he will be condemned for his handling of the war and could be forced to resign under the pressure of public opinion.

But Mr. Olmert said those seeking his downfall will have to wait.

"I know this is hunting season," he said, "but I'm here to work and to lead."

Mr. Olmert was speaking to his ruling Kadima party in a bid to boost sagging morale. Polls show that if elections were held today, Kadima would win only 10 seats in the 120-member parliament, down from its current 29. The party enjoyed a meteoric rise to power in a landslide election victory a year ago, but now, it is in danger of a meteoric fall.