A group of 500 reservists and supporters called for the top three officials in the government to resign during a protest held outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Jerusalem office Tuesday night.
With reservists protesting outside the Knesset and politicians in the opposition and even many from Olmert's coalition calling for a comprehensive investigation into the management of the war, the continuing special session of the Knesset began to address the issues faced by reservists both during the war and after.
IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinski addressed the special Knesset session on the current status of reservists and those who were released after their stint in Lebanon as well as the issue of the reservists who were called up to Lebanon on emergency orders, acknowledging there were failures.
He told the reservists' lobby at the Knesset, "We succeeded in correcting many of the errors [that became evident in the early days of the war], but it remains to be determined if we are moving in the right direction. We have a step-by-step plan to return to preparedness and we are now beginning the process of returning to fitness."
A daily demonstration by a group from Haifa is slated to begin Wednesday near the central bus station in Jerusalem under the banner, "Olmert must resign immediately." Supporters are being handed petitions to sign demanding the Prime Minister's resignation.
Another protest is scheduled for this coming Friday and is to be led by the family of Sgt. Rafan-El Muskal who was killed in southern Lebanon a month ago. Marchers will present Olmert with a letter demanding his resignation at the end of the demonstration.
"The leadership failed and it must go," said Riva Muskal, mother of the fallen soldier. "For that we don't need inquiries."
Still another march is scheduled for this coming Sunday, August 27th at 10:00 a.m. Marchers will step off from Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and walk to Jerusalem, ending their march across from the Prime Minister's Office.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz were not spared criticism, as the ranks of protestors demanding the resignation of all three top government officials continue to swell. Reservists are lining up to join demonstrations together with dead soldiers' grieving families and other civilians, some of whom lost homes or other property destroyed by Katyusha rocket fire.
A group of 20 reservists supported by the bereaved families of soldiers who fell in the war marched on Monday in protest of the government's mismanagement of the war, beginning at the entrance to Jerusalem and ending at the Prime Minister's Office, where they called for the resignation of the Prime Minister and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. They then moved to the Rose Garden later in the evening.
Some 150 demonstrators crowded Rabin Square in Tel Aviv last week to demand that the political leaders responsible for managing the military operations step down.
Olmert Slammed For Being ´Tired of Winning´ 11:23 Aug 22, '06 / 28 Av 5766 by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Critics of Olmert complain he lived up to his word when he said "we are tired of winning." The government is weakened by scandals and attacks on several fronts, but there are no signs it will fall.
Reservists have complained that the government and military establishment prevented a solid victory against Hizbullah terrorists by blunders in carrying out the war. The results were in keeping with a speech by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in June 2005, when he was Vice Prime Minister to Ariel Sharon.
He told the Israel Policy Forum in June 2005, "We are tired of fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning; we are tired of defeating our enemies."
His words have come back to haunt him amid mounting attacks from several fronts on the government, including complaints by soldiers and even senior commanders, bitterness by northern residents who charge they were abandoned, and scandals in the government. The Olmert administration's handling of the war up north orchestrated a clear failure, in that Olmert promised there would be no ceasefire without the unconditional return of the captive IDF soldiers, but then Israel agreed to the current uncertain ceasefire, without even an operative clause mentioning their return.
Justice Minister Haim Ramon was forced to resign because of charges of sexual misconduct. Minister Tzachi HaNegbi had to resign following an announcement that he will be indicted on charges of making political appointments when he was Environment Minister. The investigation was known when he switched from the Likud party to join former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new Kadima party, in which Olmert was the number two man.
Journalist Yoav Yitzchak has been publicizing for several months documents that suggest the Prime Minister received financial favors in a property deal.
Another scandal likely to damage the reputation of the government involves President Moshe Katzav, who is to be questioned by police on charges by 20 workers that he is guilty of sexual misbehavior. Two women have charged he slept with them, and Channel 2 television reported Monday night that the President will be forced to resign to avoid embarrassment. President Katzav's office called the report a lie.
The harsh condemnation of the government weakens its ability to take leadership but the government is not likely to fall unless enough Kadima Knesset Members, most of whom jumped ship from the Labor and Likud parties, switch again.
"I think Olmert will simply allow the anger to pass and get on with his business," Gadi Wolfsfeld, a professor of political science at Hebrew University, told the The Associated Press.
Olmert has found himself trying to snuff out one brush fire after another, but the multi-prong attacks have been increasing more rapidly than his responses.
He weathered the crisis of IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz's selling stocks three hours after Hizbullah terrorists kidnapped two IDF soldiers, by saying that he had complete faith in the Lt. General.
However, several days later top commanders and more than a thousand soldiers came forward with evidence of army mismanagement, irresponsibility and failure to provide troops with basic needs.
The Prime Minister tried to answer the criticism by letting Defense Minister Amir Peretz set up an investigative committee, despite public questioning of how his own appointees could fairly question the minister and the government. The Defense Minister appointed his closest war advisor, former Lt. General Amnon Lipnik-Shahak, to head the panel.
Less than 48 hours later, Prime Minister Olmert ordered the committee to halt its work after the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee almost unanimously said it wants a Knesset committee to conduct the investigation. The only voices of dissent came from three Kadima party members.
Kadima leaders were able to stymie a committee decision by pointing out a technicality that the 11-3 vote was not valid because the issue was not on the agenda.
Other voices are demanding a national inquiry headed by a Supreme Court judge who would have power to summon witnesses and bring charges against them if officials are found to have violated their responsibility.
Prime Minister Olmert rejected the need for an inquiry, saying, "I won't play this game, the game of beating ourselves up." But no sooner had he blamed his predecessors for being lax and said that energies must be focused on supporting the army, than former Chief of Staff Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon stated, "Whoever is responsible should take responsibility and not try to throw it on others."
Outgoing infantry and paratrooper commander Brigadier General Yossi Heiman said this week that the reservists were not trained properly and that senior IDF commanders are "guilty of arrogance."
On the diplomatic front, Prime Minister Olmert is saddled by a United Nations Security Council ceasefire that has become weaker in reality than in writing. Instead of 15,000 troops slated to join the international UNIFIL force in Lebanon, the U.N. is having trouble coming up with 3,500 it vowed will be deployed by the end of the month.
The northern border remains tense and Galilee residents are uncertain about their safety despite the Prime Minister's promise in his 2005 speech that the future is "more security [and] greater safety." Olmert said the destruction of Jewish communities in the Gaza and northern Samaria areas, which he and Ariel Sharon called "disengagement," would be followed by "a lot of joy for all the people that live in the Middle East.
"We are confident that this 'disengagement' will be successful and that it will then lead to the beginning of a new pattern of relations between us and the Palestinian Authority," he said.