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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Defense Minister Comrade Peretz should resign

I have always envied my father because his first vote in a Presidential election in the US was cast for Harry S. Truman in 1948. I'm embarassed to tell you who got my first US Presidential vote.

When Truman was President of the United States, he had a sign on his desk that should guide anyone who is in a position of responsibility in government. It's famous - you've all heard of it: "The buck stops here."

At the Israeli ministry of defense, the buck stops with Defense Minister Comrade Peretz. When Peretz, whose highest rank in the army was Captain, was appointed Defense Minister there were fears that he would not be able to handle the position. There was talk about adding another Labor party MK who had been a general (Ephraim Sneh or Fuad Ben Eliezer) as his 'assistant' to actually run the Defense Ministry. But politics won out and no 'assistant' was appointed. And because Ehud Olmert wanted Labor in the cabinet and could not give Peretz the Finance Ministry (which Peretz really wanted, but which would have destroyed the economy), Peretz became defense minister. Regardless, that means the defense buck stops with Peretz. And if what the media are reporting is true, it is time for Peretz to resign.

Both HaAretz and the JPost are reporting that Ro'i Amitai, a solider who was wounded in the Kerem Shalom attack on Sunday, revealed today that troops had received a specific warning on Saturday about a tunnel that Palestinians had dug in the area and of plans to attack soldiers. The warning was ignored.

Amitai's statement appears to strengthen a similar claim made by the Shin Bet (General Security Service) that a specific warning had been passed on to the IDF. The IDF claimed that there was only a general warning of an attack in the area.

DF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today that there was a warning over the past 10 days on the general location between Sufa and the Kerem Shalom crossings, but no specific warnings.

As a result of the warning, both crossings were closed down.

Senior Shin Bet sources confirmed late Sunday that they had passed specific intelligence regarding the attack to relevant officials inside the IDF.

The information had included the precise location of the attack and the fact that a tunnel would be involved, but did not specify a time frame.

Defense Minister Comrade Amir Peretz, however, told reporters that the IDF had only received a general warning.

He said that the IDF had received a warning about a large-scale terror attack that was the background to a number of IDF operations over the last two weeks, including the targeted killing of Popular Resistance Committees leader Jamal Abu Samhadana (who planned Sunday's attack) and the recent incursion into the Gaza Strip on Saturday in which two Palestinian terrorists were arrested.

But IDF soldier Ro'i Amitai, the sole surviving member of the tank crew hit in the attack, said that his unit had received an intelligence warning just a day earlier, indicating Palestinians were digging a tunnel in order to carry out an attack.

The former head of the Knesset committee, MK Yuval Steinitz, said, "one of the failures was that the Shin Bet intelligence was not taken seriously."

MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) pointed out that Amitai had said that the soldiers had received a specific warning, and that there apparently had been a failure. "I can't understand why the heads of the [defense] establishment are trying to gloss over it," he said. Vilan was referring to both Peretz and IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, both of whom claimed that the IDF had prepared adequately for the attack. I understand why they are trying to gloss over it: they would like to keep their jobs.

Amitai, the tank driver who was apparently hit in the first RPG attack on the tank, was moderately wounded and hospitalized at Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva.

He said that when his tank came under fire, the platoon commander called on the soldiers inside the tank to get out.

Another matter that remains unclear, and that is being investigated by the committee headed by former general and National Security Council chairman Giora Eiland, is why the bodies of the two dead soldiers were found outside the tank: Did they get out to fight the Palestinians after the initial hit, or did the kidnappers try to take the bodies along with the live soldier? I recall hearing on Sunday from a source outside the mainstream media that the Palestinian terrorists had taken and were holding body parts of the two dead soldiers. If that happened, it would not be the first time. But if it happened, no one is talking about it - yet.


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