Defense Minister Ehud Barak has decided to appoint former GOC Northern Command Yossi Peled to temporarily take his place as defense minister when Barak heads to Europe this week.

The move displaces Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who is Barak's regular stand-in, and who called last week for Barak to be ousted as party chairman.

Associates of Barak said the Peled appointment was not meant to get back at Ben-Eliezer.

Ben-Eliezer, known as "Fuad", recently told a Labor activists' gathering in Ramat Gan that only an outside leader could save the party. The same night, another senior Labor official, Histadrut chief Ofer Eini, also criticized Barak.

In response, Barak accused his two colleagues of "stirring the pot" within the party.

Barak departed Israel on Sunday for a trip to France and Germany. He will return to Israel on Thursday.