Peretz, Lieberman tensions on the rise

Defense, strategic affairs ministers level harsh criticism at each other.

lieberman 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
lieberman 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The most recent clash between Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Minster of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman came to a head over the weekend, with the two leveling harsh charges at each other. Lieberman ignited the dispute Friday during the Israel Beiteinu faction's tour of the North when he told party members that Peretz was so busy with the Labor Party primaries, he was not addressing inadequacies in the IDF. "What we came here to see is whether the recommendations of more than 50 investigative teams set up to examine the [Second Lebanon] war are being put into practice," Lieberman told Israel Radio on Saturday. "The officers and soldiers are doing a good job, but they are not getting the support from the political level, specifically from Peretz," Lieberman said. Peretz responded by accusing Lieberman of damaging the IDF's image and morale. "The defense establishment and the IDF have begun a large-scale work plan to achieve readiness by the summer of 2007," Peretz said. "It would be better if Lieberman would stay out of affairs with which he has no connection." IDF sources criticized Lieberman as well, saying it was inappropriate for a minister to pass judgment on the army on the same day that troops uncovered and blew up two Hizbullah bunkers. Lieberman said he was planning to raise the issue with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the cabinet meeting and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He added that "this situation cannot go on. It seems that the entire leadership of Israel is busy with the Winograd Committee [the committee established to examine the Lebanon War], while the situation on the ground remains the same, without serious consideration of the conclusions of the various investigative teams." "I am pointing out facts, while the defense minister is busy with the Labor primaries, when he really should be touring between the communities on the northern border," Lieberman said. The two party leaders have clashed in the past, most recently over Peretz's decision to appoint MK Ghaleb Majadle to become Israel's first Arab minister. Lieberman said that the timing of the decision was "purely political" and that Peretz was using Majadle to garner votes. When Lieberman took the title of minister of strategic affairs, sources in Peretz's office expressed concern over whether Lieberman would clash with Peretz's control over the defense establishment.