Israelis Will Take To The Street Calling For Olmert's Head. Can He Hold On To Power?

On Thursday night thousands of Israelis are expected to demonstrate in Rabin Square in the heart of Tel Aviv.

The demonstration is advertised as a popular message to the country's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, that he should resign for his personal failure of leadership during last summer's war in Lebanon. But those gathering tonight represent a broad political spectrum united by their growing mistrust of Israel's political and military elite.

Earlier this week a report commissioned by his own government leveled harsh words of criticism against the already embattled prime minister. It accused him of rushing into full scale war without proper planning and consultation. The war failed in both of its goals -- the return of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers and the destruction of Hezbollah's military threat.

The Israeli public had already made up its mind that Ehud Olmert and his defense team were responsible for these failures, and his personal popularity has nose-dived ever since.

WHAT TO KNOW
  • The Israeli public takes to the streets tonight to protest against Prime Minister Olmert's handling of this summer's war with Lebanon - the pinnacle of a series of political scandals and incompetences his government has been involved with.

The report's publication has unleashed a tidal wave of anger, both within political circles and from tonight, on the streets. Olmert finds himself challenged by political allies as well as enemies, all calling for his immediate resignation. He has vowed to stay on and implement the recommendations of the report.

But there is a real sense here that tonight's demonstration will be more than just a call for Olmert's head. The Israeli public is sick and tired of its politicians. In the last year there has been a relentless succession of scandals and allegations of corruption.

Ehud Olmert himelf is under several investigations questioning his personal business practices as well as potential abuse of power while serving as a minister in a previous government.

The country's president Moshe Katsav has had to step down in the light of rape allegations.

The finance minister was forced out amid accusations he stole money.

The justice minister was ejected from his post following conviction for forcing a young female soldier to kiss him.

The list goes on and Israelis have had enough.

Tonight's demonstration will be just as much about their disgust with standards in public life, as it will be about the bungling of last summer's war. Regardless, Ehud Olmert will remain the principle target of their hostility, and many here predict a large turnout may put him under intolerable pressure.

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