Binyamin Netanyahu-Silvan Shalom rift intensifies

PM, Vice PM disagree on Trajtenberg plan; Shalom left out of Safed ceremony celebrating first medical school in the North.

Netanyahu, Cabinet meeting_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Netanyahu, Cabinet meeting_311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu scored political victories when he passed both the Gilad Schalit deal and the Trachtenberg Committee’s recommendations by wide margins last week, and now he appears out to settle a political score with his Likud rival, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom.
Shalom was the only Likud minister who voted against endorsing Trachtenberg’s plan to help the middle class. He cited professional reasons for his vote, including the plan’s failure to allocate funding for the poorer sectors and the periphery, represented by the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry he heads.
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But Shalom’s vote was seen as political by officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, and Netanyahu’s associates have taken steps interpreted by Likud officials as revenge against Shalom.
First of all, Shalom’s proposal to make Sundays a day off has been put on ice. A committee headed by National Economic Council head, Prof. Eugene Kandel, which was supposed to issue its findings when the Knesset returns from its extended summer recess October 31, has now been given until the end of March to complete its work.
It has become increasingly likely that the committee will recommend against Shalom’s proposal. Meanwhile, Shalom’s threat to proceed with private member legislation, that could attract a majority, has been averted by the delay in the committee’s work.
Another issue that Shalom has worked hard on promoting – the opening of a new medical school in Safed – will feature a ceremony in which Netanyahu will speak, but Shalom will not.
The first medical school in the North, the project is the centerpiece of Shalom’s ministry’s work.
While Shalom was left out of the itinerary of speakers at the event, Ma’ariv’s Ben Caspit revealed on Friday that the vice premier was also left out of a picture from the cabinet meeting Tuesday night that decided to endorse the Schalit deal.
As part of a deal reached between Netanyahu and Shalom when the cabinet was formed, Shalom sits to the immediate left of Netanyahu in cabinet meetings, which guarantees his presence in pictures from the meetings. But in the key picture released from the meeting by the Government Press Office, Shalom’s face was blocked by Mossad chief Yoram Cohen.
Shalom also found himself embarrassed by a leak from that cabinet meeting that was not true. Channel 2 broadcast a tip that Shalom would be one of the three ministers to oppose the Schalit deal, when in fact Shalom at the time had not decided how to vote, and he ended up voting in favor.
While several ministers were given a private meeting with Netanyahu in which he explained the deal ahead of the cabinet meeting, and others received a phone call, Shalom was not told until he was invited on short notice by the Prime Minister’s Office to come to the meeting. He was also not part of any internal consultations, because despite a promise from Netanyahu, he was not made part of the inner-security cabinet.
Neither Shalom nor Netanyahu’s associates would comment on the deteriorating relationship between the two.