'Reshuffle will doom your government'
Barak aides warn Olmert; Bar-On, Ramon, Sheetrit, Boim, Edri, Avraham promoted.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
July 5, 2007 01:05
4 minute read.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emerged satisfied after completing the reorganization of his cabinet on Wednesday, but the politicians hurt by the changes warned that Olmert's decisions would lead to his government's imminent demise.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter asked Olmert to split a cabinet vote on approving the new ministers, because they wanted to vote against the appointment of Haim Ramon as the new vice premier. When Olmert refused, both ministers voted in favor, allowing the appointments to pass unanimously, but Dichter walked out of the Knesset plenum before the vote there, which passed 46 to 24.
Analysis: Winners and losers
Haim Ramon sworn in as minister
Barak's associates said he was steamed at the appointment of his longtime rival Ramon to a portfolio with undefined responsibilities.
In private conversations, he vowed to prevent Ramon from receiving access to security issues.
"Ramon is a man who generates infighting and he will inevitably spar with Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman," a source close to Barak said. "His mistaken appointment will lead to the end of Olmert's government. The first fireworks are weeks away. The countdown has begun."
Sources close to Olmert vowed to resolve the differences between Barak and Ramon as soon as possible and promised there would be no clashes between the two. Olmert expressed confidence that Ramon's appointment would pass three petitions that were filed with the High Court of Justice on Wednesday in an effort to prevent Ramon's return to the cabinet, because of his conviction for committing an indecent act.
"The government is more stable than ever and more ready than ever to deal seriously with the problems ahead," Olmert said in a toast in Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik's office after the appointments were approved.
"Haim didn't ask anything of me and he is entering the government without conditions. I wanted Haim in the cabinet very much and I think the public feels that Haim has returned to his natural place," the prime minister said. said.
In private conversations, Olmert referred to Ramon as his "sensitive soul mate." The two reportedly had an emotional meeting in the Knesset Wednesday after Ramon agreed to Olmert's pleas to remain in politics and take the job.
When Ramon took the oath of office and mentioned the word "handle," (letapel) National Union MK Zvi Hendel heckled him, saying "he should handle Tzipi Livni, he's an expert in handling women."
Olmert also appointed Ronnie Bar-On as finance minister, Meir Sheetrit as interior minister, Ze'ev Boim as construction and housing minister, Ya'acov Edri as immigrant absorption and Negev and Galilee development minister, and Ruhama Avraham as minister-without-portfolio.
Olmert had told Boim on Tuesday night that he would give him the Interior portfolio, but he told Sheetrit on Wednesday morning that he could take any available portfolio, and he chose Interior. The move was intended to quell Sheetrit's opposition to Olmert.
Social Welfare and Diaspora Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog added to his responsibilities authority over the Israel Broadcasting Authority after Barak decided not to use a portfolio that Labor had available.
Barak's associates said this was a sign that Labor did not intend to remain in the government after the release of the final Winograd Report, expected in September or October.
National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of Labor accused Olmert of breaking a promise to him to add the Negev and Galilee portfolio to his responsibilities. Olmert's associates said the promise only related to one particular project the ministry had handled.
Kadima MK Majallie Whbee also emerged upset from the reshuffle. Olmert had promised him in the past to promote him to minister-without-portfolio or deputy minister. When Olmert refused to give him either job when they met on Wednesday, Whbee left the Knesset and went home to Beit Jann in the Galilee, even though he was supposed to chair the Knesset session in which the appointments were approved.
Olmert told Whbee and other Kadima MKs that he would seek approval for deputy ministers next week, breaking a promise he made when his government was formed. But Labor and Israel Beiteinu officials said their parties opposed appointing deputy ministers, making the move unlikely.
One minister who was expected to be disappointed but was not was Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz of Kadima. Mofaz told Olmert that he was happy with his current post and he did not believe it was right to unsettle his ministry by leaving it. Olmert had considered appointing Mofaz as finance minister, but decided against it after the criticism over the appointment of Amir Peretz as defense minister last year because of Peretz's lack of experience in the subject.
"We tried not to harm anyone or to start new fights," an Olmert associate said. "Everyone is happy, the rebellions have been averted, stability has been achieved and a message has been sent that this government is not going anywhere."