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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Olmert, Peretz agree on largest government ever

Israel has a new government tonight (or will once it is approved by the Knesset) and it's not pretty. That 'largest ever' doesn't refer to MK's but to the 27 cabinet ministers! The Defense Minister knows less than nothing about defense (it is often true that cabinet ministers know nothing about their ministry, but to put someone in the defense ministry who knows nothing about it with Iran developing nuclear weapons is sheer folly!). I guess that those of you who stayed home on March 28 got what you voted for....

According to the deal, Labor will be given the Defense Ministry for Peretz, the Education Ministry for Yuli Tamir, the Agriculture Ministry for Shalom Simhon, the National Infrastructure Ministry, the Tourism Ministry and two Ministries-without-Portfolio [Every ministry without portfolio is millions of dollars down the drain. I don't understand why the World Bank isn't onto this stuff yet and why they don't lower the country's credit rating in response so that Prime Ministers will stop doing it. CiJ]. Peretz is expected to recommend to the Labor central committee that MKs Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Ophir Paz-Pines, Isaac Herzog and Eitan Cabel be given the portfolios.

Peretz had dinner with Ben-Eliezer on Saturday night and apparently informed him that he wanted him to return to the National Infrastructure Ministry. MK Ephraim Sneh, who is a former general will assist Peretz as deputy defense minister, a title he held under Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak. [I don't care for Sneh but he's at least qualified to be Defense Minister. Peretz is not. CiJ] Herzog, who will apparently be a Minister-without-Portfolio, and MKs Avishay Braverman and Ami Ayalon, who will not be ministers, were disappointed by news of the agreement.


Kadima and Labor officials expressed satisfaction following the meeting while Likud MKs accused Olmert of "threatening Israel's security" by giving the Defense Ministry to Peretz, who was only a captain in the IDF. Kadima officials said that the Likud's Moshe Arens, who was not a general, was a good defense minister and that they expected the same of Peretz. [That comparison is pathetic. Arens grew up in the United States and speaks perfect English (I linked to his biography above). Peretz doesn't speak a word of English. Arens spent five years as Chairman of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security before he became Defense Minister. Peretz has never served on that committee, which is the one that deals with the IDF. Arens was also Ambassador to the United States before he became Defense Minister. If Peretz visited the United States, he'd probably get stuck on an elevator because he wouldn't know how to press the buttons. CiJ]

"It was imperative to speed up the formation of the government in light of the recent security developments," a Kadima negotiating team member said. "Olmert met with Peretz because it is in the supreme national interest to preserve stability and national unity in order to better face the great challenges that lie ahead." [I can smell that comment from here.... CiJ]

Kadima and Labor officials met late Saturday night to finalize details on the coalition guidelines on issues like raising the minimum wage. [I can't wait to hear. How long will it take the economy to go into recession? I wish I could find a way to short the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange tomorrow. CiJ] The Labor faction will convene at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters on Sunday morning to hear details on the guidelines and the deal.

"We received almost everything we wanted and even more than we expected," Cabel said. "When we received the Education Ministry, it made it easier to accept the deal even though we wanted the Finance Ministry."

Kadima will keep the Foreign Affairs, Finance, Interior, Justice, Transportation and Negev and Galilee Development portfolios. Shas will be given Housing and Construction for chairman Eli Yishai, Communications for MK Ariel Atias and a Minister-without-Portfolio in the Finance Ministry for Yitzhak Cohen.

United Torah Judaism MK Avraham Ravitz will continue to control the Welfare Ministry and UTJ chairman Ya'acov Litzman the Knesset Finance Committee. Israel Beiteinu will be given the Internal Security Ministry for chairman Avigdor Lieberman, the Immigrant Absorption portfolio for Yuri Shtern and the Science and Technology Ministry.

Israel Beiteinu officials said they were upset that the coalition guidelines refer to evacuating settlements in Judea and Samaria. But a Kadima negotiating team member said he expects Israel Beiteinu to give in because Lieberman wants to join the government. [That's standing up for principles in Israel for you! CiJ] Deputy Immigrant Absorption Minister Marina Solodkin of Kadima will apparently not be a minister.

The Gil Pensioners Party will be given the Health Ministry and a new ministry for senior citizens affairs. [What are they going to do? Arrange shuffle board games? CiJ] Party chairman Rafael Eitan will hold the latter post while MKs Ya'acov Ben-Yizri and Moshe Sharoni will compete over the former.

Likud MK Michael Eitan said the 27-member cabinet was a waste of money.

"The only thing that will unite the coalition is the glue of corruption," Eitan said. "A government that cannot set a personal example by advancing its diplomatic goals without bribing the parties in the coalition is shameful and will not win the public's trust."


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