Knesset Approves Ehud Barak's Appointment as Defense Minister

In 46-22 vote, appointment of newly elected Labor head finalized; Peretz: I'm paying for failures of the past.

The Knesset approved Monday the appointment of newly elected Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak to the post of defense minister by a majority of 46 to 22 votes.

Barak's predecessor as both defense minister and Labor leader, Amir Peretz, told the plenum that he has been "paying a dear price for the failures of the past... I have no hand in past failures but I've been told - the failures occurred on your watch, and you'll pay for everything."

Peretz has said previously that his predecessors at the Defense Ministry had not been vigilant, had made strategic mistakes and did not ensure the Israel Defense Forces were properly prepared. He also made several other accusations intended to deflect the responsibility for the failures during the Second Lebanon War.

In a parting speech Monday morning, Peretz said he believed that he had made improvements to the defense establishment during his tenure as minister.

"I think that the IDF and the defense establishment are completing this year in better shape, stronger, and more unified than before, and I would like the citizens of Israel to know that," he said.

The ceremony to hand over the ministerial poist from Peretz to Barak is scheduled for Tuesday.

Last week, in light of Hamas' violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, Barak sent a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asking he be made defense minister as soon as possible.

An aide to Olmert said that Barak and the prime minister met Friday and "agreed that given the situation in the Palestinian Authority, we need an experienced defense minister as soon as possible."