Gil rebels withdraw request to split

Sharoni postpones plea to okay Gaydamak merger after coming under fire for legality of move.

sharoni 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
sharoni 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Arkady Gaydamak's alliance with the breakaway faction of the Pensioners Party suffered a serious setback Monday when what is usually considered to be a routine vote to approve a party break-up turned into a stormy debate with an unexpected conclusion. MK Moshe Sharoni, leader of the three party rebels, announced minutes before the House Committee was to vote on approving the breakaway faction, that he was withdrawing his request for the vote. Sharoni said he would resubmit his request for House Committee approval and is expected to rework problematic elements of the coalition agreement with Arkady Gaydamak's Social Justice Party. During the meeting, Knesset Legal Adviser Nurit Edelstein told the House Committee that there were at least two aspects of the coalition agreement which appeared to be legally questionable. One of the central points of debate was a clause in which Gaydemak reportedly would match the NIS 250,000 in funds provided to the nascent faction. It was this element, said MKs from across the political spectrum, that made it difficult to approve the establishment of the new faction, which would have been known as Social Justice-Justice for Pensioners. In every other instance of party splits, the House Committee vote required to approve such a break-up has served as a rubber stamp. Sharoni himself opened the discussion by explaining that the split from the party was done on the basis of ideology - stemming from the party's willingness to ignore terms set in the coalition agreement with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "I don't want to belong to a faction that makes me nauseous when I see it," he said with his customary bluntness. "I can't be in a party that is traitorous to its voters." MKs, including Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) and Shelly Yaciamovic (Labor), emphasized that they did not disapprove of the split, but they were concerned that they could be expressing approval for a coalition agreement that violated laws concerning elections and party funding. "I am concerned that we are debating here not about the establishment of a faction, but rather about the establishment of an emissary of the underworld in the Knesset," Gal-On said. Likud MKs, however, expressed their concerns that not approving the split could lead to the politicization of a process that, according to their interpretation, had been thus far above the usual horse-trading. It was finally MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) who put an end to the heated debate by suggesting that Sharoni temporarily withdraw his request, and resubmit it only after reviewing the agreement and consulting with legal advisors. Gaydemak himself, although it was suggested that he might attend the hearing, was otherwise occupied Monday, reporting instead to be questioned by the National Fraud Squad. Following the interrogation, the leader of the Social Justice Party reiterated his claims that the police were acting out of political motives. "This is a personal and political pursuit, carried out by judges and uniform-wearers. They don't want me to enter politics. I am fighting for the sake of justice in Israel," he said.