Ben-Eliezer slams Halutz over war

PM expected to opt for gov't inquiry commission into conflict in Lebanon.

ben eliezer 298  (photo credit: )
ben eliezer 298
(photo credit: )
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was set to meet with ministers Shimon Peres, Eli Yishai, and Avi Dichter to discuss the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the war in Lebanon. It appeared the prime minister intended to set up a government inquiry commission rather than a state commission of inquiry. He was expected to announce his official decision on nature of the inquiry at a meeting on Monday night. Earlier, Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said on Monday that Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz was to blame for the inadequate results of the war in Lebanon, saying that he had erred in his decisions during the conflict. "He who thought that it was possible to solve everything with aerial bombardments and ignore the forces on the ground is responsible for the IDF's mistakes," Ben Eliezer told Army Radio. Olmert told the ministers on Sunday that the deployment of the Lebanese Army along the Israeli-Lebanese border was a situation that one could have only "fantasized" about before the war. "If a month and a half ago someone would have suggested such an objective, the public would have reacted by saying one should not propose unachievable goals (such as this)," Olmert said. "I am not arguing that everything has changed, but it is indeed possible to say that Lebanon is experiencing a turning point," the prime minister added. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni echoed Olmert's comments telling the cabinet that a few months ago the deployment of the Lebanese army seemed something that would never be implemented. She said that 1701 is "moving from the shelf to implementation on the ground," but that one of the remaining problems was how to ensure that the arms embargo was implemented along the border with Syria, and that this was the focus of diplomatic activity. This matter was brought up in a phone conversation Olmert had Sunday with Annan, who arrived in Beirut on Monday for a two-day visit to strengthen the UN cease-fire in the region. Olmert, according to a statement issued by his office, called for the international force - which Annan said would begin arriving in about a week - to deploy on the Syrian-Lebanese border. The Security Council resolution calls for this only if the Lebanese government asks for it, something that has not yet occurred. Syria is adamantly opposed to such a move. During the meeting, Minister Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) demanded the government discuss the setting up of an inquiry panel on the Lebanon war. Olmert replied that the issue was "not on the agenda and would not be discussed." Sources close to Olmert said the prime minister wanted to consult further with his advisers on the issue before deciding what kind of panel to authorize. According to Israel Radio, Olmert has also postponed his appearance at the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, scheduled for this Monday, to the following week. Some political analysts argue that both are an attempt by Olmert to "buy time", hoping that public pressure to form a state inquiry commission would die down. Dozens of protesters demonstrated outside the Prime Minister's office Sunday morning, demanding that the government authorize a state committee. A state committee of inquiry, which has been set up in the past following the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the massacres in Sabra and Shatila in 1982, and the October 2000 riots in the Galilee, has the widest statutory powers and is headed by a Supreme Court Justice. Olmert also met with Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson in order to discuss an increase in the 2007 defense budget. Hirchson said he would examine the Treasury's capability to acquiesce, but senior Finance Ministry officials said Sunday that a budget increase was not justified.