'Finance is more important than defense'

Ben Eliezer: Labor will do everything possible to fulfill campaign promises.

ben eliezer fuad 88, 298 (photo credit: Israel Foreign Ministry)
ben eliezer fuad 88, 298
(photo credit: Israel Foreign Ministry)
Labor MK Binyamin Ben Eliezer said Saturday that the finance portfolio was more important than the defense portfolio. "Security is society," Ben Eliezer told Israel Radio, and therefore, he added, Labor would do everything possible to receive the finance portfolio and fulfill its campaign promises. Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson denied Saturday that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had ruled out Labor party chairman Amir Peretz as a possible candidate for Finance Minister in a Kadima-led coalition. "I don't think [Olmert} has ruled out Peretz, or anyone else, for Finance Minister," Hirchson told Israel Radio. "Peretz has an impressive record," he added. "Obviously," Hirchson continued, "Kadima wants to retain a number of key portfolios. The Finance portfolio is very, very central, as it allows [the party holding it] to endorse their policies." Hirchson noted the need to safeguard a free economy and work towards modernization, while making sure that the weaker sectors of society are not "left behind." The Tourism Minister said that he supported the law guaranteeing pensions for all retirees and said that the minimum wage could be raised to $1000 a month. However, Hirchson said, before the minimum wage law could be implemented, time would have to be allowed for employers to negotiate with the Histadrut. He said that the minimum wage could be increased gradually, over the course of more than a year. Hirchson also recommended that the operating budgets of each ministry be examined to determine where money could be saved and added to the budget for social programs. When asked whether he himself might be appointed the next Finance Minister, Hirchson responded that he would like to serve as a minister in Olmert's cabinet and that he would be "happy" to take any portfolio that the acting prime minister offered him.