Bar-On, PMO clash over pension saftey net plan

"Let nobody seek to make political capital here," Olmert said. "I will not allow this issue to become part of elections-eve political tension."

Bar-On 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Bar-On 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A Knesset Finance Committee meeting quickly turned heated as the topic of the day on Sunday - whether to approve the Treasury's package - erupted into a war of words between Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and the committee's chairman, MK Avishay Braverman. The argument began almost immediately, when Braverman announced at the beginning of the meeting that he would not hold a vote on the plan because he opposed the absence of a security net for pension funds. The finance minister rejected his position, and for nearly an hour, the two argued back and forth. After 50 minutes, Braverman said that the meeting would be adjourned to give the Treasury, the Histadrut and the Prime Minister's Office more time to negotiate a compromise solution. Bar-On blasted Braverman's move in an interview with Army Radio, blaming it on the mix of economics and politics which he said was "devastating," particularly in the lead up to elections. During Sunday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is in favor of a broader program, dismissed suggestions that Braverman's decision was politically motivated. The prime minister said he would not let the economic plan become part of pre-election "political tensions." "I believe that we must reach as broad an agreement as possible so that these matters will be outside political argument," he said. "We are in a delicate elections period. There is a natural tendency by various elements to use such potential crises for political purposes." "Let nobody seek to make political capital here," Olmert continued. "I will not allow this issue to become part of elections-eve political tension." "We must look out for the public, for the hundreds of thousands of people who save and we must see to it that they will not be hurt. This issue requires maximum responsibility, free of sloganeering and power struggles, neither political nor personal," the prime minister said. "In this spirit, I hope that we will complete the work quickly and I thank all those involved for showing the required responsibility, cooperation and goodwill." Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that the Finance Committee's failure to approve the plan was "outrageous." "Politics cannot override what is correct," she said at the cabinet meeting. "Critical and vital economic decisions have been unnecessarily postponed. The Treasury's plan must be approved quickly, although improvements should be made to the plan which would give long-term security to 'savers'." On Wednesday, Olmert declined to approve the Treasury's limited pension safety net plan in favor of the broader program, in an effort to avert a general strike in the public sector. The following day, the prime minister met with leaders of the large political parties to discuss his proposed broader package. Nevertheless, the party leaders agreed to give their approval to the Treasury's limited package.