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The government, not the army, is most to blame for the failures of the Second Lebanon War, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said yesterday, in response to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee's report.

"In Israel, overall responsibility for waging a war, launching a war, and concluding it rests with the government," he said. "That is clear even if the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chose not to deal with it."

Barak's statements are considered of particular importance politically, because he has promised to pull his Labor Party out of the government after the Winograd Committee publishes its final report on the war, expected later this month.

Opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) applauded Barak's statement that the government was to blame, adding: "I expect Mr. Barak to keep his promise and leave the government when the final Winograd Report is submitted."

Noting that several senior army officers, including the then chief of staff, did take responsibility and resign, and that then-defense minister Amir Peretz had also been replaced, Netanyahu added: "Only one man, the prime minister, refuses to take responsibility."

Numerous other MKs similarly argued that the government, rather than the army, bore prime responsibility. "The committee turned the Israel Defense Forces into a scapegoat for the government's failed decisions," charged Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor).