Dissent mounts in Israel over Lebanon war


Richard Moore

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Dissent mounts in Israel over Lebanon war
by Marius Schattner
Fri Aug 11, 6:04 AM ET

Dissent in Israel over the government's handling of war in Lebanon started to 
mount, as international diplomatic efforts intensified to bring the month-old 
bloodshed to an end.

For the first time, opinion polls showed a sharp drop in support for the Israeli
government over its handling of the offensive in Lebanon and mainstream parties 
and movements outright withdrew their support for the war.

In a survey published by the Haaretz daily a month after the offensive was 
launched, 73 percent of respondents said Israel could not claim to have won the 
war against the Lebanese Hezbollah militia if the fighting stopped now.

Since it killed eight soldiers and captured two others in a July 12 border 
attack, the guerrilla group has continued to rain rockets on Israel, inflicting 
120 Israeli casualties.

Only 48 percent of those polled said they were satisfied with Prime Minister 
Ehud Olmert's performance since the start of the offensive a month ago.

In a front-page article Friday titled "Olmert Must Go," the independent Haaretz 
daily piled blame on the premier for a series of mistakes.

"There is no mistake Ehud Olmert did not make this past month," senior 
editorialist Ari Shavit said.

"He went to war hastily, without properly gauging the outcome. He blindly 
followed the military without asking the necessary questions.

"The day Nasrallah comes out of his bunker and declares victory to the whole 
world, Olmert must not be in the prime minister's office. Post-war battered and 
bleeding Israel needs a new start and a new leader. It needs a real prime 

Shavit echoed growing criticism that Olmert, who has little military experience,
was now having cold feet after ordering Israel's largest military operation in a
quarter century.

Right-wing lawmaker Yuval Steinitz also said that "if it accepts a ceasefire, 
the government will have to resign because it will have handed an unprecedented 
victory to Hezbollah."

After a wave of international criticism over Lebanese civilian victims and heavy
losses endured by ground troops venturing inside Lebanon, Olmert is now being 
accused by some of holding back the military and offering Israel an indecisive 

The Maariv daily said that Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres has had 
acrimonious exchanges with Olmert in recent days, notably during Wednesday's 
security cabinet meeting that gave the go-ahead to an expanded ground offensive.

"Peres criticised the management of the crisis, the lack of thought, the fact 
that everyone blabs to the media and informs Hezbollah when there will be an 
operation," the newspaper said.

Former foreign minister Silvan Shalom also said Israel's acceptance of 
UN-imposed ceasefire would be "disastrous, because Hezbollah would take 
advantage of the situation to re-arm."

"The war would be delayed by a few years and then it won't just be the north of 
Israel that will be threatened by rocket fire but the whole of Israel," he said.

In another sign the tide may have started to turn, mainstream movements known in
Israel as "the peace camp" or the "Zionist left," which earlier supported the 
war, withdrew their support for the military offensive arguing that Israel must 
accept talks.

On Thursday, hundreds of demonstrators staged a protest organised by the 
anti-settlement Peace Now organisation and the left-wing Meretz party in front 
of the defence ministry to condemn the decision to press on with the fighting.

"The war has spiralled out of control and the government is ignoring the 
political options available," Peace Now spokesman Yariv Oppenheimer said.

Anti-war demonstrations in Israel had so far been organised by movements 
considered in the Jewish state to be from the extreme left.

In 1982, Peace Now organised a huge demonstration to condemn the role played by 
Israel in the massacre of Palestinians in Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee 
camps. It led to the resignation of then defence minister Ariel Sharon.

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information 
contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or 
redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.

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