Peretz Aims to Stay at Defense Through Labor Primaries

Defense Minister and Labor Party leader Amir Peretz does not intend to resign following the release of the Winograd report on the Lebanon war, sources close to Peretz said. According to the sources, Peretz plans to stay at the ministry's helm until the Labor primaries due May 28.

The sources refuted reports yesterday that Peretz was considering resigning. They said the reason for the reports was the fact that Peretz consulted additional advisers on whether to step down.

"All of Peretz's associates are against his resignation, but the thought had crossed his mind, as it surely had crossed the mind of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert," the sources said.

Peretz apparently aims to finish his tenure as defense minister in a respectable manner. To achieve this goal, some of Peretz's consultants advised him to use the positive references to him in the Winograd report to his advantage.

Peretz is nonetheless under pressure to resign due to factors such as the mass protest rally due tonight in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square.

It remains unclear how Peretz will act in Labor's central committee meeting scheduled for next week. During the meeting, Labor's leadership will review MK Ophir Pines-Paz's demand that the party withdraw from the coalition with Olmert's Kadima.

Peretz's opponent in the primaries, MK Ami Ayalon, is expected to support the demand, as he has already said Olmert should resign in light of the report's findings.

Peretz may second the proposal in an attempt to bring about Olmert's political demise. Peretz regards Olmert as the chief cause for Peretz's political collapse.

Meanwhile, Peretz is adhering to a busy schedule including political dealings and security issues. He is currently touring many areas in Israel. In a ceremony in Upper Nazareth, Peretz said yesterday that "this is no time for political vendettas. We must put animosities aside and focus on action."