Gil's fate to be decided Thursday

Party definitely to split, but number of MKs dissenting from Pensioners' party as yet unclear.

moshe sharoni 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
moshe sharoni 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Gil Pensioners Party will officially split on Thursday, but it is still unclear how many MKs will join rebel Moshe Sharoni in forming a new faction called Justice for Pensioners. MKs Sharoni, Sarah Marom-Shalev and Elhanan Glazer signed a form on Monday updating the Knesset House Committee that from now on they will be part of the new faction. But they decided not to submit the form until they meet again on Thursday. That leaves three days for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to persuade Glazer to stay and break up the rebellion, under the assumption that a third of the seven-MK faction would be needed for it to legally be allowed to split. Olmert reportedly met with Glazer last week and offered him the post of deputy pensioners' affairs minister if he would stay. But Knesset legal authorities said Monday that one or two MKs could legally break off from Gil and that a third was not necessary. They said that if Sharoni broke off on his own, he could legally run for the next Knesset, but not with a Knesset faction that currently exists. When Kadima was formed, one third of the Likud split to form the new faction. The Labor MKs who joined Kadima were legally forced to quit in order to run for the next Knesset, because the Kadima faction already existed. Sharoni, by contrast, is expected to run with billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak's Social Justice Party, which does not have a faction in the Knesset. Sharoni said he was in negotiations with Gaydamak, but his current plan was for the Justice for Pensioners Party to run on its own. Glazer said late Monday that he had decided not to speak publicly until Thursday, because he had already changed his mind too many times and he did not want to make any promises he would later break. Sharoni said that he and Marom-Shalev would break off from Gil on Thursday regardless of Glazer's decision. Should all three MKs leave, Olmert's coalition would fall from 67 to a tenuous 64. That 64 would include several potentially problematic MKs, including independently-minded Marina Solodkin and Ze'ev Elkin of Kadima and Shelly Yacimovich of Labor. It would also include the Shas MK who replaced suspended MK Shlomo Benizri, whose identity will be decided by Knesset legal authorities on Tuesday morning. Sharoni said that he was looking forward to beginning coalition negotiations with the government, in which he will demand raising of pensions, the cancellation of pension fund fees, and equalizing pensions for widows and widowers. Asked whether he thought he would end up in the coalition, Sharoni said "they can call me and we'll find out." A Kadima official said the potential split in Gil would not affect the coalition, because Sharoni was already problematic before. The official said that despite several rebellious MKs, the coalition succeeded in overcoming some 120 no-confidence motions and passing the 2008 state budget in record time.