The cabinet on Sunday approved the appointment of former Labor party leader Amir Peretz as chairman of the Israel Aerospace Industries board, after a Senior Appointments Advisory Committee voted against the nomination.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz had nominated Peretz, but the advisory panel ruled that the choice was problematic, citing Peretz’s lack of experience at such companies as well as his ties to Gantz (Peretz was appointed a minister under Gantz in the previous government, in which the latter had the power to appoint about half the cabinet under a power-sharing deal).
The cabinet ignored the committee on Sunday, voting to approve Peretz anyway. The appointment required the authorization of Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, who okayed it.
Labor leader Merav Michaeli and Meretz ministers Nitzan Horowitz and Tamar Zandberg abstained in the vote. Michaeli later said the proposal should not have been brought before the cabinet, which has “a particular responsibility” for proper governance “after a government that seriously undermined [democratic] gatekeepers.”
Meanwhile, Liberman blasted the members of the panel for questioning his and Gantz’s judgment and hinted that he believed they should resign.
The Movement for Quality Government watchdog lambasted the cabinet for “bypassing the professionals while ignoring their jobs.”
“Political appointments are a sickness of Israeli politics. This is not how a ‘change government’ behaves. Finance Minister Liberman’s threats and calls for panel members to resign are shameful.”
The position of IAI board chief was vacated at the beginning of 2021 after the previous chairman, Harel Locker, stepped down and was appointed chairman of the Paz Oil Company.
Amir Peretz also served as defense minister in 2006–2007, which included the 2006 Lebanon War, and was instrumental in getting the Iron Dome defense system, developed in part by IAI, approved.
Peretz, 69, led the Labor party until January. He announced then that he would not run for the Knesset in the March elections, amid intense criticism of his decision to join a Benjamin Netanyahu-led government after vowing not to do so in 2020. Polls at the time showed Labor failing to enter the Knesset, but Michaeli managed to win the party seven seats.
At the time he left the Knesset, Peretz was the longest-serving MK, having served continuously since 1988 except a three-month break at the end of 2012.
He also considered a run in the recent presidential elections, but announced in May he was quitting the race.
The IAI chair board position is extremely sought-after according to Calcalist, with the company having a turnover of over $4 billion.
IAI develops and manufactures advanced systems for air, space, sea, land, cyber and homeland security. Since 1953, the company has provided technology solutions to government and commercial customers worldwide, including satellites, missiles, weapon systems and munitions, unmanned and robotic systems, and radar.