Arens says he did not mean to call Amir Peretz a fool

Arens says he did not me

Former defense minister Moshe Arens apologized to Labor MK Amir Peretz on Sunday for creating the impression that he had called him a fool. In a speech on Saturday in Beersheba, Arens criticized decisions made during the Second Lebanon War. He appeared to criticize Peretz, who, like Arens, was appointed defense minister despite not being a former general. "There is nothing wrong with a civilian as defense minister," Arens told the crowd. "But on the other hand, not every fool needs to be appointed minister of defense." Peretz reacted furiously to the apparent attack, saying he would no longer tolerate being made the scapegoat for the war. He noted that IDF chiefs of General Staff Dan Halutz and Gabi Ashkenazi had praised him for his decisions to attack Hizbullah's long-range missiles at the start of the war and to purchase the Iron Dome defense system - decisions opposed at the time by the top IDF brass. "I am sick and tired of absorbing such criticism," Peretz told Army Radio. "This attack came from a man who received everything in his entire life on a golden spoon. He spoke arrogantly and vulgarly in an unacceptable manner. "Who is Moshe Arens to say such things? I don't want to raise what happened when he was defense minister, except forcing us deeper into the muck in Lebanon." Peretz said that neither Arens, nor anyone else, had the right to judge him. He said he did not regret the war, which he said improved Israel's strategy in fighting terror. Arens later went on Army Radio to apologize to Peretz and claim that he had been misunderstood. "I am very sorry if Amir took offense at what I said," Arens told the radio station. "We have good relations. "I did not intend to insult Peretz. He is far from being a fool. Amir is very intelligent and smart and one of the most important politicians on our political landscape. I did not even think of insulting the man." Asked who he was referring to if not Peretz, Arens told The Jerusalem Post, "I was not referring to anyone in particular or trying to insult anyone. I am not in a position to grade people as defense minister. Everyone who has held the post has been intelligent and able." But he said that the current political system allowed inappropriate people to be appointed to top positions, citing as an example former finance minister Avraham Hirchson, who is currently in jail for stealing millions of shekels from the National Workers Labor Federation while he was its chairman.