Officials to "Post": Respect for system has dropped due to minister's conduct.
By YAAKOV KATZ
Respect for the defense establishment has dropped around the world in recent months due to a lack of respect for Defense Minister Amir Peretz, senior defense officials have told The Jerusalem Post.
According to the officials, Peretz's conduct as defense minister, his poor English and lack of familiarity with many of the sensitive issues have led some defense establishments around the world to slightly tone down relations with the Israeli Defense Ministry. Peretz, the officials noted, has also been distracted lately due to his significant involvement in his reelection campaign in the Labor Party primaries.
The most recent example was Peretz's trip to the United States last week where he was snubbed by senior administration officials and was only granted a short meeting with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Officials close to Peretz have hailed the meeting as an important milestone in Israeli-US relations.
During his trip to the US, Peretz met with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) exclusive list of major donors and was accompanied by a translator he brought with him from Israel whom he knew from his tenure as head of the Histadrut. Her job was to translate Peretz's speech from Hebrew to English as well as to translate the audience's questions.
The meeting turned embarrassing for Peretz, however, after the translator encountered difficulty in accurately translating the defense minister's speech. Peretz's chief of staff Brig.-Gen. (res.) Mike Herzog immediately stepped in and replaced the translator in translating his boss's speech.
"This type of event detracts from the already low appreciation people have for Peretz," explained one official. "This doesn't only affect him but the entire defense establishment."
Officials said that "Peretz was not taken seriously" by the US administration and that as a result other Defense Ministry branches, particularly those that dealt with strategic issues, were finding it difficult to move projects ahead.
The officials said that many foreign delegations that visited Israel met with Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh and not with Peretz.
"These are extremely sensitive and difficult times," a senior defense official said, "and it is now more important than ever to have a defense minister who is respected by the world."
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