An empty car arrived at the Defense Ministry, and Amir Peretz stepped out of the car, to paraphrase Winston Churchill’s jibe at Clement Atlee. Even the harshest critics of Peretz have to acknowledge the important contribution he has made: He has demonstrated that the position of defense minister is completely superfluous. It is possible to go to war, withdraw forces, pulverize Gaza, deploy vis-a-vis Iran, and even control the West Bank without a defense minister. It suddenly becomes apparent that an answering machine at the defense minister’s office is sufficient. Fact: Peretz has faded away, yet all of these things occurred.
It is possible to be an outstanding citizen, a labor leader who emerged from a remote town, who throughout his life fought and paid the price for his dovish views – without a ranch, without military ranks, without rich friends and cigars – and then become a defense minister responsible for a policy that is even more brutal and militaristic than that of all the generals who preceded him. Fact: The initial months of Peretz’s tenure as defense minister have been among the most horrifying in the history of the conflict, with Israel routinely killing a shocking number of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, including many women and children. Not only has Uncle Peretz failed to soar, but he has become an identical twin of Shaul Mofaz, who was perhaps the most brutal of defense ministers. However, soon we will begin to long for Mofaz: At least with him we had no expectations that he would act wisely and humanely.
(Meanwhile, Israel finally admits to using phosphorus shells during the recent Lebanon war.)