'Gil rebels bigger threat than Talansky'

Knesset House Committee to debate whether to allow Pensioners' party defectors to join Gaydamak.

sharoni 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
sharoni 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Seventy-nine-year-old Pensioners Party MK Moshe Sharoni is a greater threat to the survival of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government than 75-year-old pensioner Morris Talansky, Kadima officials close to the prime minister said Sunday. The officials downplayed the chances of the investigation into Talansky's contributions to Olmert ending his premiership, especially after Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz told Channel 2 on Sunday that the probe could take months. But they said they took the threat of Sharoni helping bring down the government very seriously. When the Knesset begins its summer session Monday, its House Committee will convene to debate whether to authorize the break-off of three Pensioners' MKs, led by Sharoni, to form a new opposition faction loyal to Russian-Israeli billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak. Kadima lawmakers on the committee will try to block the split, which would cut the coalition from 67 MKs to an unstable 64. "Anyone who authorizes a deal that stinks this bad will damage the image of the entire Knesset," warned coalition vice chairman Yoel Hasson of Kadima, a close ally of Olmert. Pensioners faction chairman Yitzhak Galanti went further, accusing Sharoni and the MKs who split with him of accepting bribes from Gaydamak. "If the House Committee approves this, it sets a precedent that would give Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad and others who seek to harm us from the inside no shortage of ideas for buying factions, parties and even individual MKs," Galanti wrote to the members of the committee. Knesset legal adviser Nurit Elstein ruled late Sunday that the split was illegal and violated the party funding law. Even without her decision, it was not clear whether Sharoni had a majority on the panel to approve the split. Sharoni responded by calling Galanti a "serial liar" and accused him of seeking his own deal with Gaydamak. Sharoni said he did not need the committee's approval for the split to take effect. "But if they want a show, I will be ready to give them a show," he said. Kadima officials said that in any case, they had not considered Sharoni part of the coalition for quite some time. They said they expected the summer session to be much harder than the winter session, which started before Israel Beiteinu left the coalition in January, back when the coalition still had 78 MKs. "It won't be an easy session now that we have only 64 MKs, some of whom we know we can't count on," a Kadima official close to Olmert said. "We won't fall in a no-confidence vote, but there will be bills that will pass against out will. Then again, the opposition is not homogeneous, either. It won't be easy, but we will overcome." Olmert's allies in Kadima said they were not concerned about reports that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had started working quietly to register new Kadima members ahead of an expected race for the party's leadership. Livni also has criticized Olmert in closed conversations, signalling that she might soon take action against him politically. "Even the things that Olmert has admitted to are improper," Livni was quoted as saying by Ma'ariv's Ben Caspit. "I don't ask what is criminal or not. I ask what is right, proper, moral, ethical. I consider this entire idea of accepting money from rich people improper. Maybe I'm naive or unfit for this profession, but that's my opinion and that's what I believe. We formed Kadima to clean up politics. We formed Kadima because I became disgusted by the Likud central committee and everything it symbolized." An Olmert ally called Livni's statements "healthy competition" and said it was perfectly legitimate for her and other prospective candidates to get ready for a succession battle, just in case. But they expressed confidence that Olmert would overcome all the threats posed by Livni, Sharoni and the Talansky investigation. Sharoni said it was right to include him on the list of Olmert's greatest threats. He agreed with the Kadima officials that he posed a greater threat than Talansky. "He is still young," Sharoni said of the man four years his junior. "He hasn't gotten to my level yet. He has a lot of time to learn from me."