Peretz Aides Say He Should Give Up Defense Minister Post

Polls support stance that defense minister post is hurting Peretz's chances of winning primaries in May.

Associates and political advisers to Defense Minister and Labor Chairman Amir Peretz believe that he should announce that he will resign from the post of defense minister, should he win the upcoming Labor party primaries, and return to the "social route" he touted during his election campaign.

There is growing concern in Peretz's circles that the defense minister position is hurting his chances of being reelected to chair the Labor Party.

This opinion is supported by internal polls conducted at regular intervals among the Labor rank-and-file, who will be asked to elect a party leader on May 28.

Several of Peretz's advisers believe that if he relinquished the post of defense minister, his chances of being reelected would be greatly enhanced, especially in a race against party member MK Ami Ayalon and former prime minister Ehud Barak, both of whom are perceived as much more suitable to serve as the country's defense minister.

According to these advisers, the ideal timing for Peretz to make such an announcement would be immediately following the release of the Winograd report, a report outlining failures of the government during the summer's war in Lebanon, slated for the end of April. This, they say, assuming that Peretz is not forced to step down following the release of the report, and its findings on the defense minister's personal failures during the war.

In contrast, political sources from within the Labor party claim that Peretz has missed his chance to improve his image, and any move he makes now would be irrelevant.

Sources close to the defense ministry said Monday that Peretz has not yet adopted his advisers' stance. The sources say Peretz is struggling with the decision to resign from the defense minister post, even though "he really does not enjoy the job."

However, "the issue is certainly on the table," the sources said.

Peretz's office issued a statement saying the defense minister has no intention of stepping down, and that reports to that effect are baseless.