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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Coalition negotiations over portfolios have not yet moved into high gear, but Labor MKs began murmuring their discontent with party chairman Amir Peretz on Thursday, accusing him of sacrificing them to get a more important portfolio for himself.
Labor is expected to be given six portfolios for its 19 MKs, based on the formula of 3.5 MKs per minister that Kadima is using. One of them will be a minister-without-portfolio.
Kadima officials have said that the more senior the portfolio Peretz receives, the less important the rest of Labor's ministries will be. They said that if he were to forfeit all three of the top portfolios - Finance, Defense and Foreign Affairs - Kadima would even be willing to give Labor an extra ministry. But Peretz's associates have ruled out that possibility.
"There is a feeling that Peretz has been greedy," said a top Labor official. "By insisting on a senior portfolio for himself, the party's chances for a greater number of smaller portfolios have been damaged. If he gave up on one of the top three for himself, we all know he could get at least one more portfolio for the party, and maybe stronger ministries for deserving MKs."
While it has been widely speculated that Peretz would take the Defense Ministry for himself, he has continued to insist that he was seeking the post of finance minister so that he could fulfill his campaign promises of a socioeconomic agenda. Peretz adviser Rahel Turgeman said Thursday that there was no chance he would accept anything less than a top-tier portfolio for himself.
Peretz has also insisted on the Education Ministry for MK Yuli Tamir, thought to be a close ally of his before and during the recent election.
"He always talked about the team during the election, but now he is only looking out for himself and his cronies," a Labor MK said.
Besides Peretz and Tamir, Labor's ministerial candidates include MKs Isaac Herzog, Ophir Paz-Pines, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Ami Ayalon, Avishay Braverman, Eitan Cabel and Shalom Simhon. Former prime minister Ehud Barak added his hat to the crowded ring in an interview with Army Radio on Thursday in which he suggested that Peretz was unqualified to be defense minister.
"There is no portfolio that Amir Peretz can't have, because half a million citizens voted for him, but whoever receives a portfolio should have an understanding of the field," Barak said. "Civilians have served as defense minister, but they had extensive experience. I am sure that Amir Peretz will find a job that fits his experience."
While aides to Peretz called the comment "inappropriate" and continued to stress that Barak was "no longer relevant" to the Labor Party, MKs close to Barak said that he was sounding a common consensus in the party.
Barak said he would run if elections for ministers were held in the Labor central committee, but his associates said that he would not run against Peretz for Labor's top portfolio.
They said Barak's ideal situation was for the Defense portfolio to be given to Labor but for Peretz to take a socioeconomic portfolio for himself and let Labor's generals compete for the Defense Ministry.