Amid charges that he has mishandled the crisis in the Gaza Strip, Defense Minister Amir Peretz appears poised to receive a deputy with extensive security experience to assist him at the ministry, Labor MKs toldThe Jerusalem Post Monday. MK Ephraim Sneh, a former brigadier-general, will be named deputy defense minister within weeks, several MKs said. The appointment has been a long time coming, and many legislators debated the wisdom of its timing. "There has been a lot of political maneuvering to bring this about, but in the end it might look to the public as if Amir [Peretz] couldn't handle the job, so they brought in Sneh to help him out," said one senior Labor MK. Criticism that Peretz is too inexperienced to hold the post of defense minister has grown louder with the current crises in Gaza over the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit. "It would have been bad enough with someone experienced at the helm, but for Peretz this was the worst thing that could have happened," said one Labor MK. "It is the type of thing that would make anyone look bad." During coalition negotiations, Sneh was widely rumored to be Peretz's candidate for deputy defense minister. However, during a last minute shake-up Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided to cancel the deputy ministerial positions due to public outcry over the size of the cabinet. Since then, Sneh has been assisting Peretz in an unofficial position. "Behind closed doors, Sneh has been telling everyone that July 19 is his cutoff," said one Labor MK. "If he doesn't get appointed a deputy by then, he's going to let Amir [Peretz] have it." A spokesman for Sneh denied that he had set a deadline for the position, but acknowledged that Sneh has been heavily involved in the Defense Ministry since Peretz's appointment. Sneh's appointment to deputy minister must be approved by the Knesset in a majority vote before he can take office, and the Knesset goes to recess on July 23. Holding up the appointment, said several Labor MKs, was a decision by Olmert to appoint a deputy to another ministry. A Kadima MK said that could be Marina Solodkin (Kadima), who shunned Olmert after he failed to appoint her as deputy immigration minister. Another option could be to choose an MK from United Torah Judaism, which Olmert has been trying to woo into the coalition for several months.