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Defense Minister Amir Peretz will inform Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today that he has decided that the defense establishment should purchase the Rafael Armament Development Authority's "Iron Cap" missile defense system, out of four possible options.

The Rafael system is meant to block short-range missiles and rockets like the Qassam and the Katyusha.

Olmert has said he wants to be involved in the decision because of the project's importance and the extensive funding required.

Sources in the defense establishment said they expected Olmert to accept Peretz's decision, which he made Thursday, approving the recommendation of a professional committee in the Defense Ministry.

The Prime Minister's Office yesterday backed down from statements bureau officials had made Friday in which, according to Israel Radio reporter Shmuel Tal, they said that Peretz's decision had no validity because he does not have the authority to decide which defense system to choose.

Peretz accused of opportunism

MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) called Peretz's announcement a display of underhanded opportunism. He said the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has already received notice that Peretz's office will submit a recommendation regarding the defense system, but will not make the final decision.

But officials at Olmert's bureau said yesterday that Peretz did indeed have the authority, and the responsibility, to decide which defense system was the preferred option.

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said in an interview with Israel Radio on Friday that the ministry's choice of the Rafael system was "a professional decision based on the recommendations of the best experts, and is devoid of external considerations."