Peretz: We Are Fixing Damage Caused by Depleted Pre-war Reserves

Peretz had said Winograd report proved he needn't quit at once; report said he lacked experience to hold post in wartime.

In an address given at an Upper Nazareth factory, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that the government is doing everything it can to minimize the damage caused by the thinning of the Israel Defense Forces reserves, as well as supplies, on the eve of the war in Lebanon.

Peretz said that despite the findings of the Winograd Commission, which pointed to countless failures in the conduct of the government and the defense establishment during the war, "today there are no Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon and there is a United Nations presence in southern Lebanon."

"I am certain that even the greatest critics of the war wouldn't want to go back to where we were before the war," he added.

Peretz told the crowd that he is now focused on one main goal, and that is to secure the release of the IDF soldiers that remain in captivity.

Earlier Wednesday, under intense pressure from within his Labor Party in the wake of the Winograd Commission findings on his handling of the Second Lebanon War, Peretz considered submitting his resignation as defense minister.

The step could add momentum to mounting efforts within the coalition and the ruling Kadima party to persuade Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign from office.

Close aides to Peretz said Wednesday that he was expected to dramatically announce his resignation within hours, in the wake of the harsh findings in the Winograd report, which found Peretz partly responsible for the failures of the Second Lebanon War.

While the majority of Peretz's aides have urged him to resign, a few recommended that he delay his decision. Officials from the Defense Ministry refused to comment on the matter.

Israel Radio reported that MK Shelly Yachimovich, who has been a primary Peretz loyalist, is one of the Labor figures pressing the defense minister to leave his post.

Earlier in the week, Peretz had argued that the Winograd report showed he displayed understanding that more experienced people had not shown, and that he need not resign immediately.

Peretz told Haaretz on Monday he was a moderating factor during the Lebanon war, asked hard questions and produced a dramatic achievement.

He said that the media was harassing him, but he was confident that in the end the truth would come out.

In its report, the committee stated that Peretz "did not have knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters."

It also stated that, "his serving as minister of defense during the war impaired Israel's ability to respond well to its challenges."

Peretz acknowledged his lack of experience, but said he saw this as "an advantage, not a drawback."

"Everyone who comes in with extensive knowledge is trapped in a conception. He is part of the system. There is no chance he will present an alternative," he said.