Israel planned for Lebanon war months in advance, PM says

· Olmert’s leaked testimony contradicts earlier remarks
· Criticism from inquiry may force resignation

Conal Urquhart in Tel Aviv
Friday March 9, 2007
The Guardian

Preparations for Israel’s war in Lebanon last summer were drawn up at least four months before two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Hizbullah in July, Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, has admitted.

His submission to a commission of inquiry, leaked yesterday, contradicted the impression at the time that Israel was provoked into a battle for which it was ill-prepared. Mr Olmert told the Winograd commission, a panel of judges charged with investigating Israel’s perceived defeat in the 34-day war, that he first discussed the possibility of war in January and asked to see military plans in March.

Shmuel Sandler, a political analyst, said it seemed that people close to Mr Olmert had leaked his submission, made on February 1, in an attempt to increase his popularity. In an opinion poll published this week, only 3% of Israeli voters said they would back Mr Olmert in an election, while 72% said he should resign.

Zalman Shoval of the Likud party said Mr Olmert’s testimony cast his decisions in a worse light that before. “If he had prepared plans, then to any objective commentator this makes the situation worse,” he said. “Why were the plans not carried out? It all also places a darker complexion on his decision to expand ground operations which led to the loss of 33 more Israeli lives.”

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