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Peretz fires back at war critics


Israel’s defense minister rejected criticism of his handling of the Lebanon war.


Amir Peretz said in an interview published Friday that, although he plans to relinquish the defense portfolio after May 28 primary elections in his Labor Party, his lack of military of experience was not chiefly to blame for the setbacks of the July-August conflict with Hezbollah.


“At the moment criticism is being flung at me as a result of a war that revealed failures and created difficult feelings among the Israeli public. I think that they are judging this war in a negative manner and unjustifiably so. It had very important political achievements,” Peretz told Yediot Acharonot, referring to an August 14 ceasefire which led to a boosted U.N. peacekeeper force in former Hezbollah strongholds.


Peretz, whom polls predict will be toppled as Labor leader by former generals Ami Ayalon or Ehud Barak, said that the failings of Israel’s armed forces were due to years of neglect.


“If all the previous defense ministers were so good, if they had left behind them a glorious legacy, all I would have had to do two months after I entered my position, after the war broke out, was to push some button, and the machine would have worked all by itself,” Peretz said. “I say to all those security wonks: show a bit of manners, a bit of courtesy, a bit of humility.”

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