Rafi Eitan 88 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The government did not declare a state of emergency during last year's Lebanon War so as not to harm its global financial status, Pensioner Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan told the Winograd Committee of inquiry into the war.
Eitan, whose testimony was released for publication on Thursday, told the committee that former finance minister Avraham Hirchson had rebuffed requests by communities along the border to declare a state of emergency during the war, opting instead to declare a "special situation" due to economic considerations.
"Later I understood the reason... The reason is that... if we declare a state of emergency, there is a danger that Israel's global financial ranking would drop. And then it is better to declare a special situation and not a state of emergency," he told the committee.
The minister for pensioner affairs told the war panel that he believed the government was wrong in its decision not to declare a state of emergency, but that after hearing the reasoning he accepted the decision without making a public issue of it.
"I said, we need to make it an emergency. And then they explained to me whatever they explained, and after they explained I was quiet. I want you to understand. Although I am a cabinet member, I was not pulling the strings."
Eitan also told the committee that the IDF failed to present the Israeli political leadership with explicit plans during the 34-day war, and "failed to deliver the goods" against Hizbullah.
He claimed that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not have enough information to make decisions, adding that he, too, felt he didn't have a clear enough picture.
"I'm unable to get to the heart of the issue from the information I'm receiving, even though it alone is interesting," he said he told Olmert at a cabinet meeting.
He told the panel of his concerns about the IDF's uncertain state of affairs, which he said he had voiced to Olmert after a visit to northern command with Israel's wartime leadership during the first days of the war.
"'Ehud, this is an IDF I don't recognize,'" Eitan recalled telling the prime minister. "'You're responsible, the responsibility lies with you, but remember, I'll always stand behind you.'"
At the same time, he also said that in retrospect it was Israel's good fortune that it went to war - given the need to confront Hizbullah, the lessons learned and what he deemed the longer-term benefits.
The commission's much-anticipated final war report on the government's handling of the war is due out later this summer. It may be delayed, however, if the committee sends warning letters to key figures in the government over their conduct.