Cabinet changes expected after Pessah

PM to fill vacancies left by Israel Beiteinu's departure, will try to pacify rebellious Pensioners MK Sharoni.

olmert cabinet 224 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
olmert cabinet 224 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will make a series of political appointments in an effort to strengthen his coalition as soon as Pessah is over, sources close to Olmert said Wednesday. Olmert will fill the vacancies left in the Tourism Ministry and the Knesset Finance Committee left by the departure of Israel Beiteinu from the coalition. He will also use the appointments to try to pacify rebellious Pensioners Party MK Moshe Sharoni. According to one possible scenario considered by Olmert and his associates, Labor's Avishay Braverman will chair the Finance Committee, Kadima's Eli Aflalo will become a minister-without-portfolio and Minister-without-Portfolio Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima) will be promoted to tourism minister. However, Aflalo, who lives in the North, said he would insist on becoming minister of Negev and Galilee development, but Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri, who holds that title, said he was unwilling to give it up. MK Yoel Hasson would replace Aflalo as coalition chairman. Olmert hopes he could placate Sharoni by appointing him deputy minister, but Sharoni said he would not be satisfied with anything less than a ministerial appointment. Shas officials said that if the other coalition partners were upgraded, they would demand at least to receive the chairmanship of the Knesset Interior Committee, currently occupied by Labor's Ophir Paz-Pines, who could become chairman of the Labor faction. "We are aware of all of the demands of the coalition partners and we will try to honor them as best as we can," an Olmert associate said. "Nothing has been decided yet, but after Pessah we will announce the appointments and make them official in a special session of the Knesset." A senior Labor official close to Barak who spoke to Olmert about the appointments said Labor turned down an opportunity to receive another minister or deputy minister for the party. "We in Labor didn't want to make the taxpayers pay for an unnecessary appointment, but Kadima can do that if it wants," the Labor official said.