Peretz: I'm being forced to pay for past mistakes

Defense Minister steps down Tuesday after protesting he was expected to pay 'a high price' for mistakes before his time.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz will officially step down on Tuesday and give way for the newly appointed Ehud Barak. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was in Washington for talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, phoned Peretz Monday and thanked him for his service. In a speech earlier Monday, Peretz protested that he was expected to pay "a high price" for mistakes that were present before his time. He said that he was being blamed for deficiencies that had been present for years and in which he'd "had no part." "When it happens on your watch, you're [expected to be] responsible for all of it," he said. He also lashed out at the reservists who staged demonstrations following the Second Lebanon War last summer, contending that they should have protested their lack of training before the war, rather than after. The defense minister did, however, praise the IDF leadership, including Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, for its good work, and noted a "revolution" in the improvement in army training and preparedness since the new IDF had taken office. Peretz also reiterated statements he'd made earlier in the day at a meeting with the IDF General Staff, in which he said that the past year had been a "formative year" for the IDF. Peretz claimed that he created a "stronger and more resistant" defense establishment during his tenure and that "now there is somebody to count on." IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi thanked Peretz for his support of the IDF, adding that he had no doubt the past year had been a challenging one for Peretz.