olmert meeting 88 298.
(photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Former prime minister Shimon Peres resigned from the Knesset on Sunday, a record 47 years after the 82-year-old MK was elected to the parliament for the first time in 1959 at the ripe young age of 36.
Peres had no choice but to leave the Knesset or risk not being able to return to the next Knesset with Kadima, due to a law that prevents MKs who switched parties from running for Knesset with their new party. Peres, who faxed his resignation letter from New York, wrote in the letter that he was returning the mandate he received from Labor back to that party.
"Peres is not worried because he knows that Kadima will have at least two MKs and he will be back in the Knesset soon," said a spokesman for Peres, who is second on Kadima's Knesset list.
Labor MK Dalia Itzik also resigned and Haim Ramon is expected to join them on Monday. Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz ruled Sunday that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would not be able to appoint the former Labor MKs to the cabinet, because according to law if an MK quits his or her party, he or she cannot become a minister during the remainder of that Knesset term.
The same law does not apply to former Likud MKs who left Likud to join Kadima, because since one third of the Likud MKs bolted for Kadima, the party is considered to have split, and those one third who left the mother-party are eligible for ministerial posts.
Olmert is expected to make a statement about what ministers he intends to appoint in Monday's Kadima faction meeting in the Knesset. Olmert wants to appoint new ministers from the ranks of Kadima MKs to take some of the 15 ministerial portfolios he holds off his shoulders. In the meeting, Olmert will be appointed Kadima's interim chairman and he will give the faction a motivational talk about Sharon's legacy.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said the only new ministers who would be appointed are Kadima MKs Ze'ev Boim, Roni Bar-On and Ya'acov Edri. Bar-On is expected to be named construction and housing minister, Boim is likely to receive the National Infrastructure portfolio and Edri will likely be named health minister.
In addition, Olmert is expected to transfer some of the portfolios to existing ministers. For instance, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to be named foreign minister, Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit will be education minister and Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson will be communications minister.
The resignations of Education Minister Limor Livnat, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Health Minister Dan Naveh and Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz went into effect Sunday afternoon, leaving Olmert in charge of 15 ministries. After these resignations went into effect, the cabinet went from 23 when it was formed in February 2003, to seven now, not including ailing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Once he distributes the ministries, Olmert is expected to remain acting prime minister, finance minister and minister of industry and trade.