Knesset to vote on approving new ministers

Kadima promises to not let appointments of Barak's allies pass quietly: "We want as many MKs as possible to condemn the corrupt political deal."

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
January 18, 2011 22:57
2 minute read.
EHUD BARAK announces formation of new party

Independence faction 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s deal with Defense Minister Ehud Barak that resulted in a split in the Labor Party will face its first test on Wednesday, when the Knesset votes on approving Barak’s allies’ political promotions.

According to the agreement initialed overnight by Barak’s ally, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, and coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, Simhon will be promoted to the Industry, Trade and Labor portfolio, MK Orit Noked will replace Simhon in the Agriculture Ministry, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i will be upgraded to a second minister in the Defense Ministry and MK Einat Wilf will chair one Knesset committee and then another.

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Kadima lawmakers promised to not let the appointments pass quietly. They received permission from the Knesset secretariat to turn the vote into a marathon session in which every MK is allowed to speak. After the coalition tried unsuccessfully to block the parliamentary maneuver, most of the Kadima faction is expected to speak and bash Netanyahu and Barak.

“We want as many MKs as possible to condemn the corrupt political deal, even if it means the stink will be smelled everywhere in the Knesset,” a Kadima spokesman said.

The one surprising clause in the coalition agreement with Barak’s new Independence faction states that the Likud will take action to ensure that its coalition in the World Zionist Organization will support a Barak ally becoming chairman of the Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemet LeYisrael.

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Channel 2 reported that Barak’s candidate for the lucrative position would be his close ally, former MK Weizmann Shiri.

Simhon denied the report but declined to say who the candidate would be. Sources close to him said the post must go to a party in the coalition, not Labor now that it is in the opposition.

Current JNF/KKL chairman Effi Stenzler of Labor expressed confidence that neither Barak nor Netanyahu will be able to take away his job.

Labor secretary-general Hilik Bar said he was also working behind the scenes to ensure that Labor maintained control of the JNF/KKL.

At a meeting in Tel Aviv of Labor’s kibbutz sector, the three Labor ministers whose resignations take effect on Wednesday condemned Barak for the move and expressed confidence that Labor would fully recover.

“What happened yesterday was highway robbery in broad daylight,” outgoing Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog said. “They went behind our backs and left us in a criminal fashion. But we won’t hide our heads in the sand.”

Outgoing Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman expressed outrage that his portfolio would be given to Vilna’i in the Defense Ministry. He said handling minorities out of the Defense Ministry was a terrible idea that would not work.

The most optimistic statement came from outgoing Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who promised good poll numbers in just two months.

“I think today we have reason to raise our heads and say that we are happy, despite the terrible thing that was done to us,” Ben- Eliezer said. “This is an opportunity to return to the forefront of the political stage.”

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