About a month after he was elected but before his self-
imposed deadline of Purim, Ariel Sharon is expected to
present his government on Wednesday. According to Knesset
regulations, the Likud must submit the coalition agreements
it has signed to the Knesset clerk 24 hours before the vote,
which Sharon did on Tuesday afternoon.
Sharon starts out with a government comparable to that of
outgoing prime minister Ehud Barak. With a master politician
like Sharon in control, the government has a reasonable
chance of lasting out its full term of two and a half years.
Circumstances are such, at least for now, to keep the
different parties together since Israel clearly faces a
crisis that must be dealt with, and the Palestinians'
recourse to extensive violence has made ideological
differences in Israel of minimal importance. No one will
argue that the violence must stop, and no one thinks that
there is any simple way to do this, after all the efforts
invested by Ehud Barak and his friends.
As of Tuesday morning, Sharon is assured of 71 votes out of
the 120-member Knesset: Labor (23), Likud (19), Shas (17),
Yisrael Beiteinu (4), Yisrael B'Aliya (4), National Union
(3), MK Dalia Rabin-Pelosof (1).
In addition, the following are not opposition parties. Some
may soon join the government, others may give it varying
degrees of support from outside: UTJ (5), NRP (5), Center
Party (5, in addition to Rabin-Pelosof), Gesher (3).
The National Religious Party and David Levy's Gesher will
likely end up outside the government after failing to reach
an agreement with the Likud.
Yisrael B'Aliya will receive the Construction and Housing
portfolio, a deputy premiership, and the chairmanship of the
Ministerial Committee on Diaspora, Immigration, and
Absorption. Yuli Edelstein will run the Immigration
Absorption Ministry as a deputy minister to Sharon, who will
keep the portfolio.
Gesher leader David Levy also threatened not to support the
government from the outside after Sharon told him he did not
have anything to offer him other than a ministry without
Ze'evi reportedly accepted the Tourism portfolio after
Sharon agreed to accept his request to add responsibility
for the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority,
Antiquities Authority, and the Green Patrol to it.
The Likud is still in negotiations with United Torah Judaism
and the Center Party. Coalition negotiators met with Center
leader Dan Meridor yesterday, but declined his request for
the Justice portfolio.
"Meridor would make an excellent justice minister, he also
would make an excellent foreign minister, but he is not a
Likud MK and the party has to continue to exist," Sharon
told Channel 1.
Sharon said the Likud would keep the Finance, Education,
Justice, Internal Security, Communications, and Environment
portfolios, as well as two ministries without portfolio.
Center Party MK Roni Milo has been offered a ministry with
responsibility for the government's public relations
efforts, especially abroad, despite opposition from Peres
since that responsibility usually falls to the Foreign
This government will have the most ministers of any Israeli
government ever. Aside from the expense that each additional
minister entails, there are other steps that need to be
taken. For example, in the Knesset plenum, there is a
designated table at which the government ministers sit. That
table now consists of two sections, an inner and outer
horseshoe, in order to fit all 28 ministers at the
government bench. The new arrangement has cost the government
a cool NIS 40,000.