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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas Raise Coalition Demands

Last night, I told you all that Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz had agreed on a new government. There's only one problem: they forgot to tell their prospective coalition partners. As one of my bankruptcy lawyer friends in the States tells me: Pigs get rich; hogs get slaughtered. It seems that Kadima Achora and Labor are moving into hog territory with an astounding minister to MK ratio of 2.5:1 - and they're not willing to give it to anyone else. Hmmm....

Yisrael Beiteinu, the 'right wing' Russian-immigrant party led by Avigdor Lieberman, announced today that it demands a change regarding the mention of "reduction of Israeli settlement in Judea and Samaria" in the tentative coalition guidelines.

Shas, too, is now demanding the Interior Ministry, as well as an immediate raise in child allowance payments.

Lieberman is a resident of Nokdim, a mixed secular-religious community east of Gush Etzion in Judea that is outside the 'security fence', and is known to have strong right-wing views. His party announced last night that it would not agree to the clause stating that the determination of Israel's final borders will require the reduction of Israeli settlement areas in Judea and Samaria.

MK Yuri Stern explained, "This means that the government promises in advance to remove Jewish communities in Yesha with no obligation from the other side, with no agreement, and with no international recognition. This is not acceptable to us."

As the government takes shape, it appears that the two large parties, Kadima and Labor, will receive a minister for an unprecedented low of only 2.5 MKs each. Labor will have seven ministers, including two without portfolio, and Kadima will have 12, including the Prime Minister. It had originally been thought that the ratio would be one minister for each 3-4 MKs, which is still outrageous. The government will therefore have 27-28 ministers, a record number.

Among the ministries Labor will receive are Defense, in place of Finance. MK Yitzchak Levy (National Union) said, "Labor, which claims to represent society's weaker classes, is neglecting the social issues and prefers the personal prestige of the Defense Ministry and the appointment of additional ministries to satiate its lust for power. With the money needed to pay for all those ministers, the basket of subsidized medicines could be increased and other social problems could be solved as well."

MK Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP) said, "Labor Chairman Amir Peretz sold his social promises for a bowl of lentils. Labor is once again proving that the niceties of power and the welfare of Palestinians are more important than the welfare of Israeli citizens." Orlev predicted that this "mixed-breed government" will not be able to last very long.

Representatives of Kadima and Labor defended the oversized government. Roni Bar-On of Kadima, expected to serve as Transportation Minister, told Army Radio, "The decisions facing the new government, especially the 'convergence' plan [unilateral withdrawal from large parts of Judea and Samaria], require a broad government. This is the price of democracy. It costs money, and it's impossible to square the circle of political needs within the parties. This is a government that will make important decisions that require a consensus." Why other western countries, with the possible exception of Italy, don't require similar large governments, is beyond Bar-On's intellectual capacity.

MK Eitan Cabel of Labor, who is likely to serve as Minister without Portfolio, said, "It looks like the government is large and distended; this is what Olmert decided and this is how he wants to lead the country and carry out the convergence plan. He wants a broad and strong government that can lead this move." How a government with this many parties waiting to be disaffected is 'strong' and remains 'broad' is what remains to be seen. If it carries out the disengagement surrender, it will not last beyond that.


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