Gil 'rebels' join forces with Gaydamak

Russian billionaire interested in diaspora affairs portfolio, cites experience with Jewish life abroad.

Gaydamak GIL 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Gaydamak GIL 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
A festive Sunday press conference put an end to speculation, officially announcing the unification of Arkadi Gaydamak's Social Justice Party with three "rebels" from the Gil Pensioners Party, whose impending departure from the party has captured headlines in recent weeks. Gaydamak himself announced that he would be willing to accept the position of minister for Diaspora affairs should the nascent party - which now has three MKs already in place - join the coalition. The three breakaway Gil MKs - Moshe Sharoni, Elhanan Glazer and Sarah Marom-Shalev - now form the new Justice for Pensioners faction of Gaydamak's party. The tycoon and budding politician said the three would be "in charge of social security and social protection." Asked whether he would agree to becoming a minister for Diaspora affairs, Gaydamak said it was certainly a possibility. "If they offer it, then yes," he said, adding, "I think, myself, I have some experience in the fields of the international Jewish community, the Diaspora." Gaydamak said the solidarity of Diaspora communities was "vital" for Israel. "For many years, Israeli society has rejected Jews from the Diaspora," he said. "Today, we can survive only with the support of world Jewry." Gaydamak said he planned to be a presence in the Knesset, attending the weekly coalition meetings and various relevant discussions. He did, however, warn that should he engage himself more deeply in politics, he would give up his ownership of the Betar Jerusalem soccer club, along with business interests. Sharoni, the leader of the rebel Pensioners faction, has repeatedly emphasized his willingness to rejoin the coalition; that would entitle the new faction to one ministerial seat, according to the current coalition agreement. During Sunday evening's press conference, Sharoni said the new party's platform rejects any attempt to withdraw from the Golan Heights or divide Jerusalem.