Watchdog group accuses Peretz of using his office for political gain

Peretz allegedly courted employees of IMI and Rafael.

amir peretz 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
amir peretz 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Watchdog organization Ometz filed a complaint with State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss against Labor Party leader and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, accusing him of using his position to buy votes for the race for party leadership scheduled for May. According to Ometz, Peretz has signed up thousands of employees of the Israel Military Industries (IMI) and Rafael, Israel's Armament Development Authority, in return for protecting their interests by using his prerogatives as defense minister. Last week Peretz decided to develop a short-range rocket defense system designed by Rafael to defend the country against Katyusha and Kassam rockets. According to Ometz, he picked Rafael for personal reasons. "At one and the same time the defense minister announced over the past few days the implementation of various security projects in order to expand the business activities of two companies, thereby benefiting the companies' employees," wrote Ometz. "He has also chosen these days to express his determined opposition to the privatization of the IMI." Meanwhile, at the initiative of the defense minister's campaign headquarters," charged Ometz, "thousands of employees of IMI and Rafael have registered as Labor Party members during a voter registration drive in advance of the party's internal elections. Peretz is running for re-election against Ehud Barak, Ami Ayalon and Danny Yatom. As The Jerusalem Post reported, Peretz's associates said that one of the reasons for choosing Rafael was to help create jobs in Israel instead of exporting them to the United States. But sources close to both Olmert and Peretz denied that the decision was connected to Labor Party politics. "[The Labor race] was not a factor in any way," a source close to Peretz said. "The decision was made for professional reasons by top IDF officers and it would be ugly to connect it with Labor." Peretz's office declined to comment on the accusations.