"I think that he made a mistake in taking the Defense Ministry in the first place."
By HERB KEINON
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert returned from the US late Thursday night and faced calls from inside the government to move Defense Minister Amir Peretz to another post amid continuing speculation a cabinet reshuffle may be in the works.
Acting Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit said in an Israel Radio interview Thursday that Peretz should be moved, adding that he didn't think that he should have ever have accepted the job.
"I think that he made a mistake in taking the Defense Ministry in the first place," Sheetrit said. "He should have been adamant about getting the Finance Ministry."
"I think he needs to change positions," Sheetrit said, "to take another position in the cabinet."
His comments come as the recent entrance into the government of Israel Beiteinu, and the exit of Labor's Ophir Paz-Pines, raised expectation that a major reshuffle "to shake things up" was in the works to improve the government's low numbers in the polls.
A spokesman for Sheetrit, however, said that he did not have any larger reshuffle in mind, and that he felt that for "political reasons," Peretz should change jobs. He refused to elaborate.
No comment from the Prime Minister's Office was immediately available because Olmert was en route from Los Angeles.
Officials close to Peretz, meanwhile, dismissed Sheetrit's comments, with a senior Labor official saying Sheetrit was trying to ride the wave of public anger over the Kassam rocket attacks on Sderot to move Peretz out of the Defense Ministry and put a Kadima minister there instead.
A few hours after the interview, and a phone call from Peretz, Sheetrit issued a statement saying that his suggestion that Peretz change positions had nothing to do with the Winograd Committee investigating the war in Lebanon.
Sheetrit said he recommended that Peretz move to another position in the cabinet "for political reasons, and without any connection to the Winograd Committee."
Sheetrit also criticized Olmert, saying that Kadima needed to "wake up." He said there was a need to stop "flirting" with the diplomatic process, and begin something in earnest.
"I think there is something that can be done, and hope he [Olmert] makes a decision and initiates a diplomatic process," Sheetrit said.
"The prime minister can either make history or be history, there is no other way. And I think there is a need to carry out a diplomatic process. That is the reason Kadima was formed. If it can't do that, I think it has a problem with its existence as a party," he said.
Sheetrit said he suggested to Olmert that even if the Palestinians were not negotiating partners, he should call on the Saudis to come and talk about their initiative from 2002.
"We don't have to accept everything that they are suggesting, but let's sit and talk with them," Sheetrit said. "Let's create trust between the sides so it will be possible to achieve peace and quiet."
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