Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Olmert to throw Peretz out of the Israeli defence ministry?

Nothing like a falling out among criminals....Israeli political sources are repeating strong rumors that embattled Israeli PM Ehud Olmert is getting ready to push Labor's leader, Amir Peretz out of the defence ministry. The rumors also have it that the new defence minister will be ex-Israeli PM General Ehud Barak, with ex-Shin Beit director, ex-navy commander Ami Ayalon as his deputy. Barak was ousted from Labor's leadership by Peretz, so this could get interesting.

Olmert's hand has been forced by the need to find a scapegoat for the fiasco of the mismanaged Lebanon war and the ongoing missile crisis in Gaza. One of the features of Israeli politics is the relative ease of access to political figures. Peretz can scarcely go home to Sderot without being accosted by angry neighbors.

Olmert is apparently hoping that Peretz will accept a sideways demotion to the Social Welfare portfolio and preserve his coalition government..and by actually putting someone in charge of defence with military command experience, he hopes to diffuse the anger of the Israeli electorate towards his government and increase his popularity.

It may not be quite so easy. The Labor party members who backed Peretz over Barak may not take this gracefully, especially if Peretz refuses to go quietly. A labor walkout could topple the Olmert government and bring on the new elections Israel so desperately needs, instead of the continued antics of failed and discredited politicians.

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