Defense Minister and Labor chairman Amir Peretz opened a new front against Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his party, Israel Our Home.
During a parlor meeting in Tel Aviv for his supporters in the Labor party Saturday, Peretz said there was only one political move he regretted - not forcing a coalition crisis over Leiberman joining the government.
Peretz expressed remorse for following the advice of several ministers who believed that the Labor party should stay in the government regardless of Israel Our Home joining. "I knew that I had a slim chance of getting it through a vote at the Labor Central Committee. Today, 25 percent of the Committee is Kadima people, those who voted for Kadima and promoted it. It is very difficult to get decisions through.
"But when I think back at Lieberman joining the government and the vote on the matter, I should have gone all the way (for a crisis – A.S.) even if I would have lost. I should not have listened to the ministers who said: 'We must remain in the government.'"
Lieberman's hard-line right-wing party joined the coalition in October, 2006, supported by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
'I made a grave mistake'
"I feel I made a grave mistake at the time. I should not have let it happen, even if I'd have been in a minority and walked out of the government alone," Peretz said.
The Labor leader explained to his supporters why he chose the defense portfolio. "A year has passed. And one question keeps on coming up, and that is, why take the defense portfolio? Social processes aren't just a question of the distribution of Israel's wealth. That is certainly included, but first and foremost it's a question of creating symbols and creating status. The status of the social issue depends on the status of the person leading the struggle," he purported.
Peretz addressed also slammed the media for what he views as its campaign to vilify him. "I think that in the end, the public feels the truth. I don't care if they lead a campaign related to my position in the Defense Ministry and not in the (Labor) party. But I won't let them sully my reputation. There are places where red lines are being crossed. I'm not planning an attack on anyone, but I will use the tools available to me. Even a public figure has the right to defend himself," he said.
In response to Peretz' remarks, party member Ophir Pines-Paz - who gave up his ministerial post in protest of Israel Our Home's addition to the coaltion - said the admission of error was too little, too late.
"Peretz showed himself to be a non-leader, during the whole Lieberman affair. As a result, he turned the party into a failure. Such a mistake demands that he 'hand over the keys' and give up control of the party."