Olmert: I bear full responsibility for failings of Lebanon war

Israel Materials 5 February 2008 01:27 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that he bore "full responsibility" for the failings of the war in Lebanon, in his first public comments since an official report issued last week criticized the government's handling of the 2006 war.

Addressing the Knesset in a speech which was interrupted by heckling from bereaved parents in the public gallery, Olmert said he planned to "correct the failings, draw the conclusions and jump-start the required reforms," in the wake of the report by a commission of inquiry headed by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd.

The highly-anticipated report, published last Wednesday, found "great and grave faults" in the decision-making of both the government and military during the July 12 - August 14 conflict with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

But it did not draw "personal conclusions" and recommend the resignation of Olmert or other political and military leaders who have been the focus of fierce criticism, and demands to quit, since the fighting ended inconclusively.

"The Winograd Commission's criticism of the political echelon, the defense establishment and the Israel Defence Force was harsh. I bear the ultimate responsibility for all the failings. I stated this on the last day of the war and have never attempted to shirk this responsibility," Olmert told the Knesset plenum.

As Olmert spoke, a spectator in the gallery who had lost his son in the fighting called on the premier to resign, yelling that "you are not my prime minister, I relinquish my citizenship," before being removed by ushers.

The Knesset endorsed Olmert's remarks by 59 votes to 53. Six coalition legislators, who count among the prime minister's most strident critics, broke ranks and voted with the opposition.