Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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28 Nisan 5766 - April 26, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Politica: The Battle for the Portfolios

By E. Rauchberger

With the chagim behind us the coalition negotiations are gathering momentum in an effort to complete the formation of the coalition and to set up the next government. Kadima promised Labor they could be the first to join the coalition and does plan to keep its word, but Kadima won't wait forever.

Olmert and his allies realize that they need Labor in the coalition to advance their security policy even though when the issue comes up on the agenda Labor, along with Meretz, will support the government whether they are in the coalition or not — just as in the case of the Disengagement Plan under the Sharon government. But Olmert does not want to rely on outside support. Problems inside the Likud party led to the disintegration of the Sharon government and some of its predecessors, such as the Netanyahu and Barak governments. Olmert wants to set up the kind of coalition that would provide him backing from within the government's ranks rather than having to seek it elsewhere.

Labor, well aware that Olmert needs them, is biding its time. Politics at its best. Besides keeping their election promise to raise the minimum wage, which has already been taken care of more or less and will be implemented in phases, Labor is seeking two central portfolios — the Finance Ministry for Amir Peretz and the Education Ministry for Yuli Tamir — but they know in the final analysis they will have to settle for one or the other, not both. Though it has not been announced officially, the word now is that Peretz will get the Defense Ministry and Tamir the Education Ministry.

Sharon promised Uriel Reichman the education portfolio, but when it became clear that he would not get it, Reichman resigned even his Knesset seat to leave politics.

In any event Kadima is familiar with every political move in the book and won't let Labor bide its time to eventually press them against the wall. Olmert has plenty of options without Labor and the most he can do is save portfolios for them. If they want they'll come. If not they will have to combat Kadima from the opposition bench.

Eight MKs Jostling for One Portfolio

One way or another Labor is waging a full-scale war over the portfolios and who will determine the ministerial appointments. No matter how many ministerial positions they get, former ministers and others who consider themselves worthy of a portfolio will have to give up their dream. There are simply too many of them in Labor.

Before Pesach Amir Peretz said the ministers would be selected based on the primary results and the MK's experience. Even before Pesach it was evident that five Labor people are guaranteed spots at the government's table: Amir Peretz himself, Yuli Tamir (who is both very loyal and a woman, and Labor needs a woman minister), Yitzhak Herzog and Ophir Pines (who topped the primary results) and Binyamin Ben Eliezer, the seasoned veteran. The word now is that Shalom Simchon will get the Agriculture portfolio.

No fewer than seven other Labor MKs consider themselves viable candidates for such a position: Ami Ayalon, Avishai Braverman, Matan Vilnai, Eitan Cabel, Colette Avital, Ephraim Sneh and Dani Yatom. Each of them has a reason why he should get a job.

The only one who looks likely at this time is Ephraim Sneh, a former general who already served in the Defense Ministry. Since Peretz's credentials for running that ministry are weak, he is expected to be appointed a deputy minister of Defense to complement Peretz.

Several high-ranking Laborites want the Party Center draw up the ministerial list rather than the party chairman. Based on the Labor Constitution, 300 signatures of Party Center members are needed to bring the issue for discussion. If the Center winds up determining the ministerial list, anything could happen. But if not the above predictions are probably accurate, more or less.

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