The New Chief of Israel Aerospace Industries, Amir Peretz, Is in the Right Place

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Amir Peretz in the Knesset in May 2020.
Amir Peretz in the Knesset in May 2020.Credit: Adina Valman / Knesset

We are hearing many inaccurate statements in the debate about the appointment of Amir Peretz as chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries. This is not the first time that an appointment has been brought to the cabinet after being rejected by the senior appointments advisory committee.

It happened in 2004, when the committee rejected Shlomo Ben Lulu, a Likudnik and former mayor of Beit She’an, for the position of chairman of the new government gas company. The minister refused to make the decision and brought the appointment to the cabinet for approval (it approved Ben Lulu only as director and not as chairman). The appointing minister at the time was Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Minister Avigdor Lieberman also refused to accept the decision of the Appointments Committee to reject the candidacy of Yair Shamir as chairman of the Israel Aerospace Industries and brought it to the cabinet.

But despite what the spin suggested, Shamir’s “political connection” to Lieberman was not the main problem: The opposition was due to a conflict of interest, namely, loose ends from Shamir’s previous tenures as chairman of the IAI.

In the same move, the Appointments Committee approved the candidacy of Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Uzi Landau, both of them former ministers from Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, for the job of chairman of the IAI and chairman of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, respectively. How are Landau and Aharonovitch qualified while Peretz is unacceptable?

The question regarding the decision to reject Peretz becomes even more acute when we think about the last chairman, who was approved by the Gilor advisory committee. The committee was punctilious with Peretz and wrote that he was defense minister for only a short time, and that 15 years have passed since then, but Harel Locker, the present chairman, only served as the director general of a staff office, did not manage billions of shekels or thousands of employees, was previously a lawyer, and then had a consulting firm.

How is his experience preferable to that of someone who was chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, the economy minister and the environmental protection minister? Locker has a significant connection to the prime minister, whose office he ran. Isn’t that a stronger connection than that between Peretz and Gantz, who were never in the same party, and only formed a political alliance?

I will clarify: I’m in favor of the board of directors. Yair Lapid, then a finance minister deserves a great deal of credit for this step (which was led by Ori Yogev, director of the Government Companies Authority). It’s good that the vast majority of the directors in government companies will come from there, and excellent that in 95 percent of the cases the decisions of the Appointments Committee will be honored.

The Appointments Committee was right to reject Ami Palmor, director general of the Justice Ministry, for the job of chairman of the Israel Electric Corporation, but the case of Peretz is one of those in which the committee has made a big mistake – the government did the right thing when it confirmed his appointment on Sunday.

In its decision the committee decided, after trying to downplay Peretz’s experience and education, that he is qualified for the job of chairman of the IAI, but because of his connection to the appointing minister, Benny Gantz, he is in need of “exceptional qualifications.” Well, when you think about the IAI, who is more qualified to confront the powerful IAI workers’ committee, which is halfway in control of the company?

When Gantz began to run for the premiership he met with the chairman of the Labor Party. Peretz was still dreaming at the time of 15 Knesset seats. Gantz reminded Peretz with a smile that as defense minister he never appointed him to the jobs he wanted. Peretz replied that that was true, and even now he didn’t think that Gantz was qualified to serve as prime minister.

It is almost a cliché to write the words “Iron Dome” in connection with Peretz, but Peretz, with all his shortcomings, has always displayed independent thinking. Does anyone really imagine Peretz changing his mind on a matter related to the IAI because Gantz contacted him?

That’s almost funny to anyone who is familiar with the relationship between the two and Peretz’s nature. And it’s also a badge of shame for the heads of the Zionist left (Merav Michaeli, Nitzan Horowitz and Tamar Zandberg), who abstained in the vote, once again looking like people who do not have the same willingness to adopt unpopular opinions that has always been characteristic of Peretz.

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