Civilian can serve as defense minister, Peretz says
Minister ignores most of criticism directed at him in Winograd Commission's interim report, says war probe committee reached very important conclusion when it said a civilian could serve as defense minister. 'I am sorry my entire testimony was not published; now the public is unaware of all the details,' he adds
"I was afraid that a different conclusion on the matter would turn Israel into a very militant state. I am happy the committee made this ruling," he added.
The defense minister ignored most of the criticism directed at him in the committee's interim report on the government's conduct during the Second Lebanon War and decided to refer to one of the report's clauses, which said that there was no reason not to appoint a man without military experience defense minister.
Speaking at an event in the city of Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, Peretz added that the committee should have published his entire testimony instead of just parts of it.
The committee ruled in its report that the defense minister's "lack of knowledge and inexperience caused his to fail in fulfilling his duties."
"I am very sorry the committee chose not to publish my entire testimony. Only the parts dealing with the security issue should have been left out, but now the public is unaware of all the details and will judge me in the future," Peretz said Saturday.
The Winograd Commission ruled that the defense minister "did not ask for the IDF’s operational plans and did not examine them, did not check the preparedness and fitness of IDF, and did not examine the fit between the goals set and the modes of action presented and authorized for achieving them."
Responding to these remarks, Peretz said, "I made the decisions according to the information I received. The day the political echelon thinks the army is not telling the truth will be a very difficult day.
"It's very strange that people are saying today that a defense minister should ask a military commander whether the forces are capable of carrying out an operation."
Addressing the speed in which the government made the decision to launch a war, the defense minister said that "the IDF is an organization which must be prepared at real time, almost in no time. People ask why we made a hasty decision. What if one of the enemy forces had rushed to the border? Would the propose taking a break in order to check if we are ready?"
According to Peretz, the Second Lebanon War took a turn following the incident in the village of Qana.
"Until then the feeling was that things were being achieved. When the Qana incident took place, I was in a meeting with US Secretary of State Rice. Suddenly one of my assistants came in with the pictures broadcast around the world, and Rice, who was scheduled to fly to Lebanon from Israel was told by the Lebanese not to go there, and that led to a spin that caused things to be run differently."
Peretz went on to address the situation in the Gaza Strip and Sderot, saying that "entering Gaza is an alternative which should be kept till we reach a situation in which all hope is lost. This is not the situation today. Being in Gaza with our divisions and running their schools and sewage is definitely not a desired thing for the State of Israel.
"I remember very well the Qassam attack in which my bodyguard was injured and lost two of his legs and a woman was killed. I remember my good childhood friends demonstrating outside my house and demanding a response. I announced that the number of demonstrations will not determine the nature of our response," he said.