When Ariel Sharon fell into a coma following a massive stroke in January 2006, one of his closest aides Ehud Olmert was the obvious candidate to take over.
Olmert rose to prominence under Sharon serving as deputy leader and finance minister.
He backed Sharon every step of the way during the controversial Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in the summer of 2005.
He also followed Sharon later that year when he left the ruling right-wing Likud party to set up the more centrist Kadima. It won the March 2006 election, propelling Olmert to the position of prime minister.
However, after his party picked up less seats in parliament than anticipated, Olmert was forced into a coalition in order to carry out his plan to remove Israeli settlements from Palestinian territory and fix his country’s borders for the future.
Olmert named Labour party member and former trade union leader Amir Peretz as his defence minister.
These two men – both of whom lack military experience – led their country into war with Hezbollah a few months later.
The conflict started when Hezbollah militants fired rockets and mortars at Israeli border villages, diverting attention from another unit that crossed the border and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers.
Three Israeli soldiers were also killed. Israel retaliated immediately – the second Lebanon war had begun.
Olmert’s goals were simply: to annihilate Hezbollah, bring home the two captured soldiers and secure the border with Lebanon.
For the next 34 days, Lebanon came under heavy attack, but border towns in northern Israel continued to come under Hezbollah fire.
Hezbollah fired more than 4,000 missiles against Galilea. An estimated one million people were forced to flee the conflict.
A hundred and fifty eight Israelis including 41 civilians were killed. Two thousand civilians were wounded. On the Lebanese side, the deathtoll exceeded 1,200.
Finally, on August 14th, hostilities ceased following a UN Security Council resolution. But the captured soldiers were not returned, and Hezbollah’s strength had not been seriously reduced.
On April 30th this year, the verdict fell: the Winograd report thoroughly condemned Olmert and his allies for 6;serious failure6; and 6;rash decision-making.6;
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