Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has survived the first 48 hours since the publication of the interim report on the Lebanon war and his determination not to resign remains intact. Olmert has though, lost one Labor cabinet minister, the chair of his own Knesset party faction, and the Foreign Minister amongst others has publicly called on him to resign. Thursday night a mass rally in Tel Aviv will take up that call. The coming days, and perhaps weeks, will be full of political intrigue and excitement – the key things to look out for will be how serious are the moves inside Olmert's own party to replace him, will his Labor party coalition partners demand his resignation, and whether the public protest will maintain momentum? The pendulum initially swung against Olmert and his predicament remains critical, but perhaps a little more stable.
At the same time, Secretary Rice is returning to the region and in addition to the Iraq conference, she will be meeting with her Mideast Quartet partners and with relevant Arab parties as part of her continued efforts to re-launch the peace process. If Olmert does remain in office for now, he may just see his political survival in linking forces with Secretary Rice in getting serious negotiations with the Palestinians on track. This might help him survive the final report of the Lebanon committee, which is due in August. But it is a high risk strategy for all concerned and the Secretary of State may have to place her recent Mideast peace shuttling on hold until Israel's political situation is clarified.
And what about Iraq? With the 4th anniversary of "mission accomplished" behind us and the neighbors conference in Egypt coming up, it is difficult not to draw the comparison, as today's NY Times editorial did, between Israel's leadership having appointed a committee whose findings regarding a failed war have been brutal and the absolute absence of any such process in the US. Right now Hezbollah television is celebrating the findings of the Israeli commission of inquiry. It is hardly pleasant viewings for Israelis and you could even describe it as a gift to one's enemies, but the report is the price of democracy and also the way to learn the lessons and correct the mistakes.