Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Winograd Committee that on July 12, the day the Second Lebanon War began, he estimated that the IAF's bombing of Hizbullah targets would last 10 to 14 days. He felt the home front could withstand the Katyusha rocket attacks that were sure to come from southern Lebanon. "We were talking about a confrontation [with Hizbullah] that took into account that the home front would be hit," Peretz said. "But it wasn't true that the home front wasn't prepared. It's too sweeping a statement to say the home front wasn't prepared. Determining whether or not the home front is prepared means seeing whether the main area under threat has enough bomb shelters and security rooms. "It was my assumption, and also those of the security officials, that we could hold our own, be in control and provide the right answers," he told the panel. More from the Winograd testimonies:
Olmert: Halutz told me the army was ready
Halutz: We could have achieved far more
On Thursday, the Winograd Committee released the censored transcripts of testimonies given by Peretz, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and then-chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz, in keeping with its promise to the High Court of Justice.
The committee members asked Peretz tough questions throughout the hearing. For example, retired judge Eliahu Winograd asked Peretz whether he had managed, in the three months between the formation of the government and the beginning of the war, to learn enough about the army to fulfill his ministerial duties.
When Peretz answered in the affirmative, Winograd said: "I asked these questions because I read the minutes of the security consultations that took place in your office and, later, in the Prime Minister's Office, and the meetings of the cabinet and the forum of seven [the war cabinet].
"I did not find a single original or dissenting statement on your part, other than the fact that you repeated the positions stated by military men. I am asking whether you felt that you were making some independent contribution of your own to the decisions that were made."
Peretz: "I think I made an important contribution to the war, a decisive one in certain instances. I think my presence was what determined the decision that was taken."
The committee members reminded Peretz that he had attended army maneuvers in which security forces practiced an assault against Hizbullah. The maneuvers had involved not only air attacks but also ground attacks by large forces, including reservists, to knock out Hizbullah's short-range Katyusha capabilities against Israel's North.
Winograd: "In your capacity as minister of defense, you knew that the only solution that could have reduced the Katyusha fire was a ground operation, like in the maneuvers. You knew this before the cabinet meeting [on July 12.]
"You also knew that it would require large forces. And you knew on that day that if the cabinet decided to launch such an operation, there would have to be a large reserve call-up to fill the ranks."
Peretz responded that he did not think the reserves had to be called up on the first day of the fighting because the initial plan, which everyone had agreed to, called for three to five days of aerial bombardment of Hizbullah targets.
Winograd: "If after three, four or five days the army would have to begin the second operation [the ground operation], it would not be possible to mobilize them in five minutes. It takes a few days to mobilize the reserves, to prepare the maneuvers, to start planning.
"In other words, during the cabinet meeting of July 12, the ministers should already have been discussing and deciding what would happen three, four or five days down the line - not to say, 'We'll see what the situation is three days from now.'"
Winograd asked Peretz why he had not raised the the home front issue during a security consultation on the afternoon of July 12. Since the army was against calling up the reserves, even though it was certain they would be needed in a prolonged campaign, why didn't this "set off alarm bells in your mind?" he asked.
Peretz: "The chief of General Staff is head of the army, and if he asks for something very strongly, it would be illogical for defense ministers to decide that they're the ones who decide."
Winograd: "You don't decide, but you ask the appropriate questions."
Peretz said he had been the first minister to ask to call up the reserves, on July 19, a week after the fighting began. But Olmert would not hear of it at the time, he said. It was only on July 26 that the decision to call up the reserves was made.
Peretz told the committee he had not been aware that the regular and reserve soldiers were not ready for battle.
When Winograd asked whether he knew about the situation of the regular soldiers regarding training, Peretz replied: "Absolutely not. The army never told me that there was a problem about preparedness for war because of a lack of sufficient training." He said the same when asked about the reservists.