Sources close to Defense Minister Amir Peretz said on Saturday that despite reports to the contrary, Peretz had no intention of giving up the Defense portfolio. Earlier, MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) had said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would remove Peretz from his current position as part of a number of planned cabinet changes. The report followed criticism by Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman on Friday that Peretz on Friday that the defense minister was not addressing inadequacies within the IDF because he was too busy with campaigning for the Labor party primaries. Lieberman made the comments following a tour of the Israel Beitenu faction in the North of Israel. "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 said.
IDF detonates two Hizbullah bunkers
While on a tour of the borderline communities, Lieberman took particular issue with the display of a Hizbullah flag meters from the northern security fence.
"We saw [the progression] in 2000, first it is a flag, and then it is some sand bags, and the next thing is the bases and bunkers of Hizbullah right on the fence," 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.
Meanwhile, Peretz accused Lieberman of damaging the IDF's image and morale.
"The defense establishment and the IDF have commenced 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 which he has no connection with."
MK Eitan Cabel told Israel Radio that Lieberman was himself deserving of criticism for promoting "extreme and wild" stances on issues relating to Israel's security.
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 revealed and detonated two Hizbullah bunkers.
Lieberman said he was planning to raise the issue with 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 Commission [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.