Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Defense Minister Amir Peretz
Photo: Hagai Aharon
Photo: Ronen Boidak
Opposition and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo: Ronen Boidak

Olmert confirms sound relations with Peretz

Prime minister rejects reports that his relations with his defense minister have reached an all-time low

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday brushed off reports that his relations with Defense Minister Amir Peretz had reached an all-time low, describing contacts with the Labor leader as "sound."


Speaking to members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Olmert said he held phone conversations with his Defense Minister on a daily basis.


"Intimate relations been the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister are not obligatory," he told committee members with a touch of sarcasm.


The latest friction between the two coalition partners was over the renovation works near the Temple Mount.


Olmert was said to have been angered by calls from Peretz to halt the works and by claims by the Defense Minister that his ministry had not been informed about the project beforehand.


Olmert aides and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter rejected Peretz's charge, saying he had been informed of the works in advance.


Works to rebuild a bridge that leads to the Mugrabi Gate near the Temple Mount fueled Muslim anger and sparked off riots on Friday.


During a cabinet vote on the renovations on Sunday, Peretz as well as two other Labor ministers – Education Minister Yuli Tamir and minister-without-portfolio Raleb Majadele - abstained.


Peretz associates said after the vote that Defense Ministry officials had presented the government with a series of proposals aimed at calming the situation but their plans were rejected by Olmert.


"We proposed creative and good solutions to calm the situation, but Olmert stood his grounds and veered right in the direction of Lieberman and the extreme right," Peretz aides said referring to the hawkish leader of the Israel Our Home faction, Avigdor Lieberman.


Skirmishes between Peretz and Lieberman at cabinet meetings are frequent. Lieberman has made no secret of his opinion that Peretz is unfit to run the Defense Ministry.


פרסום ראשון: 02.12.07, 13:51
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