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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The coalition crisis over the 2007 state budget was quelled when the partners in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition decided to work to ensure that the government would not fall over the budget, Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson's associates said Wednesday.
Both Olmert and Hirchson discussed possible changes in the budget with a long list of ministers and MKs on Wednesday. Hirchson will continue his efforts in meetings on Thursday with Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim and Ministers-without-Portfolio Eitan Cabel and Yitzhak Cohen.
"There is already an atmosphere of being after the crisis," a Hirchson associate said. "The politicians are facing reality, their feet are on the ground and there is less tension. The music has changed and they realize that they need to pass the budget and keep the government intact. It's only a question of how to get there."
Finance Ministry officials said that only minor changes would be made in the budget ahead of Tuesday's cabinet vote on the proposal. They said that the framework of the budget would be maintained even as changes are made to accommodate the needs of the coalition partners.
On Wednesday, Olmert met with MKs Zevulun Orlev (National Union-National Religious Party), Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), Reuven Rivlin (Likud), Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon (Labor) and Ben-Yizri.
Olmert's aides insisted that the meetings were conducted for "standard update purposes," but MKs from those parties said that Olmert was clearly testing the water for coalition partners. Upon leaving his meeting with the prime minister, Orlev said that he couldn't see his party joining the government in the near future. "There is no policy or platform for us to consider," he said.
UTJ, which Olmert has repeatedly tried to lure into the coalition by dangling the Social Affairs Ministry, also said that it "could not see UTJ joining a government with no platform to speak of."
Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan reiterated his request for a ministry of pensioners' affairs but added that he was optimistic that Hirchson would be able to present a "socially responsible" budget.