Budget approval tops agenda as new ministers take office

As the new cabinet ministers took office Sunday, Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson vowed to pass the long-delayed 2006 budget "as quickly as possible."

yishai olmert 88 (photo credit: )
yishai olmert 88
(photo credit: )
As the new cabinet ministers took office Sunday, Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson vowed to pass the long-delayed 2006 budget "as quickly as possible." "I plan to submit the budget to the Knesset for approval tomorrow [Monday]," Hirchson said at a ceremony marking his appointment at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem. "I hope we won't need all 45 days left to approve the budget in its second and third readings, because we need to focus on the future." Earlier in the day, the new cabinet approved the 2006 spending plan, more than four months past the deadline. The NIS 284-billion budget submitted by the previous government failed to win lawmakers' approval before the government was dissolved for the March elections. Hirchson said his goal is to create a "proper economy and a proper society," a reference to rolling back some of the social-welfare spending cuts undertaken by the previous government, when Binyamin Netanyahu served as finance minister under former prime minister Ariel Sharon. "My feeling is that social issues need more emphasis both in terms of thinking and resources in order to narrow gaps and create a more homogenous society," Hirchson said. In taking over the Treasury, Hirchson handed over the Tourism Ministry portfolio to Labor number two, Isaac Herzog, and the Communications Ministry to Shas minister Ariel Attias in separate ceremonies. In accepting the Communications Ministry portfolio, Attias said he would work to protect the interest of the consumer by further opening the communications market to effective competition. Herzog, who in the last Knesset served as chairman of the lobby for tourism in Israel and as a member of the Knesset Finance Committee, vowed to "continue the work that Hirchson started as tourism minister" and, in the short-term, focus on implementing the recommendations made by the tourism task force, which last week outlined a plan to receive five million visitors by 2011. Also at the Tourism Ministry ceremony, Director General Eli Cohen said he would leave his position in two months after helping with the transition period. At the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appealed to its new minister, Shas leader Eli Yishai, to use the planned sale of Iscar to US investor Warren Buffett for $4 billion to encourage further investment and trade with Israel. Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson Date of Birth:11/02/1941 Email:ahirshson@knesset.gov.il Residence:Tel Aviv Family Status:Widowed Number of Children: 3 Foreign Languages:English Education:Partial academic studies Staff Sergeant in the Israeli Defense Forces Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog Date of Birth:22/09/2006 Email:iherzog@knesset.gov.il Residence:Tel Aviv Family Status:Married Number of Children:3 Foreign Languages:English, Arabic Education:Degree in law Major in the Israeli Defense Forces Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai Date of Birth :26/12/1962 Email:eyishay@knesset.gov.il Residence:Jerusalem Family status:Married Number of Children:5 Foreign Languages:Arabic Conscript service in the Israeli Defense Forces