Defense minister freezes war inquiry

Preliminary report criticizes Peretz for not activating emergency plan.

ami ayalon stern 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
ami ayalon stern 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Defense Ministry has suspended a panel's review of the military's performance during the just-ended war in Lebanon, security officials said. Defense Minister Amir Peretz appointed the panel last week following widespread criticism of military failings during the 34-day offensive against Lebanese Hizbullah guerrillas. But the panel's operations were frozen Monday night until the government decides whether to order a broader inquiry into the conduct of the war, the security officials said. Earlier on Monday a preliminary report was issued by the Knesset subcommittee established by MK Ami Ayalon (Labor) to investigate the issue. The report declared that the government mishandled the management of the home front during the war in the North. The subcommittee, a part of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was created during the fighting and was charged with examining the condition of the home front throughout the conflict. Among the report's initial conclusions is a criticism of Defense Minister Amir Peretz's decision not to initiate the government's standby "Emergency Economy" (Melah) plan, which would mobilize civilians, along with government and security service infrastructure, to aid in times of crisis. According to the report, Peretz only discussed utilizing the plan on July 22, ten days after the beginning of hostilities, and immediately rejected it, apparently in contradiction with advice he received from experts. Due to this decision, the IDF's Home Front Command was permitted to operate only at partial capacity, without the ability to mobilize reservists and resources on a significant scale to aid in operations. A 2001 State Comptroller report said that "Melah preparations, meant for the worst scenario - total war - could also help in situations that are less grave...and need not be used only during total disasters." The Knesset subcommittee report also dealt with procedures for evacuating civilians from conflict areas. Despite the fact that the procedures have been in place since 2001, they were not implemented, leaving citizens of the North to their own devices throughout the fighting. According to the report, the implementation of the evacuation procedures weren't raised once in the many Cabinet meetings during the 34 days of fighting. The subcommittee also said that government ministries and agencies in the North appeared to be at a virtual stand-still during the conflict.