Olmert pressed to investigate war

Israel’s attorney general has presented Ehud Olmert with a list of options for investigating the conduct of the recent war in Lebanon, as the prime minister faced mounting calls for a sweeping probe into the conduct of the conflict.  Among the alternatives presented to the prime minister is an independent commission of inquiry, with the power to sack top government and military officials.     

Olmert is under growing domestic pressure to authorize such a panel, rather than an alternative inquiry that would have narrower powers.   

The war, launched just hours after Hezbollah fighters killed three Israeli soldiers and captured two in a cross-border raid July 12, enjoyed broad public support at the outset, but lost favor after Olmert accepted a UN-brokered truce without crushing Hezbollah or winning the captives’ release.   

The deaths of 34 soldiers in last-minute battles just before the truce took hold only deepened the outrage, as have reports that the military was so ill-prepared that it did not even have enough food, water or bullets for its fighters.

On Wednesday the Haaretz newspaper reported that Olmert would likely choose his preferred option by the end of the week. The final decision is up to the Cabinet.   

Olmert has sidestepped calls for a sweeping, independent inquiry, and instead, asked the attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, to draw up a list of possible reviews that could be conducted.     

Other options open to the government, Mazuz said, included government or parliamentary inquiries.   

Olmert meanwhile has repeated that Israel has no plans to lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon until an international peacekeeping force takes up positions along the Syrian border and at Beirut’s airport.   

Israeli officials said Olmert was not issuing an ultimatum, but the tough stance appeared to be an attempt to put pressure on the international community to send a powerful force willing to disarm Hezbollah.   

The proposed UN rules of engagement for the international force would allow troops to open fire in self-defense, protect civilians and back up the Lebanese army in preventing foreign forces or arms from crossing the border, according to a UN document obtained Tuesday.   

Olmert laid down his position in a meeting with UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, who is in the region to discuss implementation of a UN-brokered cease-fire that ended the war between Israel and Hezbollah.     

Diplomats are still trying to hammer out final details, including the peacekeeping force’s precise responsibilities.

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