Eitan set to form new pensioners party

Former minister hopes to repeat 2006 success of Gil party.

Former Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan will announce the formation of a new pensioners party at a press conference in Tel Aviv early Wednesday morning.
Eitan hopes the party will repeat the success of the now-defunct Gil Pensioners Party, which won a surprising seven seats in the 2006 election, but did not receive enough votes to pass the electoral threshold in 2009.
The seven MKs sparred bitterly throughout their three years in the Knesset and three MKs at one point tried unsuccessfully to break off and form a new faction affiliated with Russian oligarch Arkady Gaydamak’s short-lived Social Justice Party.
Eitan, 83, said he would head the party temporarily and then clear the way for a younger leader. He said a study conducted by Bar-Ilan University Prof. Amnon Caspi found that there is a need for a party to represent the needs of pensioners and that such a party could garner electoral success.
Some 300 delegates from across the country are expected to attend a convention for the new party next Monday morning, including several people in their 30s. A name for the new party will be chosen at the event in place of Gil, which means both age and happiness in Hebrew.
Eitan and the new party’s director-general, Yoram Kleiner, have worked on it for six months. Eitan said that despite all the problems in the original pensioners party, the formation of a Pensioners Affairs Ministry, currently headed by Likud deputy minister Leah Ness, was an important accomplishment.
Sources close to Eitan blamed the downfall of the original party on his political rival, former MK Moshe Sharoni. Sharoni blamed Eitan and former health minister Ya’acov Ben-Yizri for not insisting on the honoring of the coalition agreement with then-prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Sharoni told Israel Radio on Tuesday that there was no chance of Eitan’s new party succeeding.
“I think it’s very sad that people who failed dismally in the lastelection have the gall to try again,” Sharoni said. “The pensioners arenot stupid. They know who their authentic representatives who reallyhelped them are.”