binyamin ben eliezer.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In his testimony to the Winograd Committee, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer criticized the conduct of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz during last year's Second Lebanon War and the months leading up to it.
Ben-Eliezer, however, qualified his remarks, stating that the IDF had not provided the prime minister with the full picture. "I think [the prime minister] was misled, and I'm putting this extremely mildly."
The national infrastructure minister said that Israel's response to the kidnapping of the two soldiers was the correct one, but still, "we made all of the mistakes possible."
"I cannot break free of the impression that an impossible constellation was created; that the prime minister woke up one fine morning to find that he is the prime minister - and I accept him - but the reality is that he is unfamiliar with the entire topic of defense- he never dealt with it."
Like the prime minister, Peretz was not invulnerable to Ben-Eliezer's criticism. "The defense minister accepted his portfolio for lack of a better alternative. He said: 'I want the Treasury' and took the Defense Ministry."
When asked about the fact that the IDF appeared to be utterly unprepared for the kidnapping of reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev on July 12, the former defense minister acknowledged the army's lapse.
"I confess that there was no assessment [that Hizbullah would kidnap additional soldiers.] There never was a situation evaluation that provided for a chance that - one fine day - Hizbullah would do what it did," Ben-Eliezer said.
The national infrastructures minister told the committee that, popular opinion notwithstanding, two months before the war broke out a meeting geared towards preparing for an emergency situation was held in his office. "They told me I was a psychopath... I invited all of the representatives... Israel Police, the Home Front Command... and I deliberated with all of them. I said: 'I fear we will be attacked' - ergo, we were prepared in advance for [an attack]."
When asked what he would have done had he had the clout to set defense policy, Ben-Eliezer said. "I would have deployed the army and waited a week. I would have forewarned the Lebanese and told them: 'My dear friends, these two boys will come home within two weeks. If not, no stone in Lebanon will be left unturned.'"
"If you ask me about the odds for them returning the boys, [the answer is] one percent - but we would have had a week; to draft reservists and train them, to bolster [them with troops] from other divisions, and to be prepared."
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