Battle expected on Labor portfolios

Unhappy Labor members promise to do all in their power to foil Peretz's list.

peretz to labor mtg 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
peretz to labor mtg 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The sigh of relief that Amir Peretz heaved at the signing of a coalition agreement with Kadima was premature, unhappy party members said Thursday, promising that they would do everything in their power to ensure that the Labor leader was denied his list of ministers. Even as Labor members gathered in a celebratory atmosphere to officially sign the coalition agreement, plans were under way to undermine Peretz's designs and reassign the seven ministerial positions he had obtained for the party. Labor will be given the Defense, Education, Infrastructure, Tourism and Agriculture ministries and two of its MKs will be ministers without portfolios. One of those ministers will oversee Jerusalem affairs and the other will oversee the Broadcasting Authority. MKs disappointed with their chances for ministerial positions are already frantically calling members of the party's central committee. On Sunday, the committee will meet to decide on the crucial issue of who will determine the final ministerial list. According to Labor Party regulations, the party chairman can submit a list of his preferred candidates for ministerial positions to the committee. The committee can then decide to approve the list, or take matters into its own hands and decide the ministers in party-wide elections. Officials close to Peretz insisted that in all likelihood the committee would adopt his suggestions. Veteran MKs Danny Yatom and Matan Vilna'i, however, are leading the opposition to Peretz and trying to convince the committee that it would best serve the party through a vote. "It is not clear who has the home-field advantage," said one party official. "Both Peretz and the opposition MKs have strong friends on the committee." An MK close to Peretz said that the chairman included MKs Shalom Simhon and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on the list because they had influential friends on the committee who could argue his case. "If the list goes to a vote, it won't be limited to the elected MKs, and believe me, a lot of people will come out of the woodwork and run," said one Labor MK. One such figure, who has already announced his intention to run, was former party chairman Ehud Barak, who was known to have strong influence on the committee. "He may not be popular with the party, but Barak still has a lot of friends in the central committee," said one high-ranking Labor official. Yatom and Vilna'i are both upset with Peretz because they feel they were snubbed by the chairman and not slated for a ministerial position as befitted their rank in the party. Other MKs, such as Ami Ayalon and Avishay Braverman, were also rumored to be upset with Peretz, although the two have not publicly challenged the chairman. The current lineup suggested by Peretz will see the chairman as defense minister, Yuli Tamir as education minister, Shalom Simhon as agriculture minister, and Ben-Eliezer as minister of national infrastructure. The Tourism Ministry and two minister-without-portfolio positions are rumored to be contested among MKs Eitan Cabel, Isaac Herzog and Ophir Paz-Pines.