Haim Ramon sworn in as minister

Knesset follows cabinet in approving portfolio changes unanimously.

sheetrit smug 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
sheetrit smug 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
New ministers Haim Ramon and Ruhama Avraham were sworn into the government Wednesday afternoon after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's cabinet reshuffle was approved by the Knesset. Earlier, the government unanimously approved the reshuffle. On Wednesday, Construction and Housing Minster Meir Sheetrit accepted an offer from Olmert to become interior minister in place of incoming Finance Minister Roni Bar-On. Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim will be promoted to replace Sheetrit.
  • Analysis: Sky could be the limit for finance minister Bar-On Haim Ramon gave in to pressure from the prime minister's office and agreed to return to the cabinet and accept president-elect Shimon Peres's former title of vice premier. Minister without portfolio Ya'acov Edri will accept the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, which he initially turned down, after Olmert agreed to also assign him the post of Negev and Galilee development minister, a portfolio previously held by president-elect Shimon Peres. Knesset House Committee chair Ruhama Avraham will be minister in charge of coordination with the Knesset. Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog will be named minister in charge of the Israel Broadcasting Authority until he is replaced by someone else from the Labor party. In the end, the prime minister backtracked on his plan to appoint new deputy ministers after an outbreak of criticism that such a move would be an unnecessary strain on the budget. "The appointments of Bar-On, Ramon and Ruhama Avraham turn the Israeli Government into an ignominious government," MK Arye Eldad of NU\NRP said Wednesday in response to the government reshuffle. "It is typical of Olmert that the man who will serve as his deputy was convicted in a criminal court, why he himself is expected to stand before such a court." PM Olmert said that the decision to appoint Haim Ramon a minister was made only after he thoroughly perused the ruling on Ramon's case, Israel Radio reported. According to Olmert, the court did not disqualify Ramon from serving as a minister despite the prosecution's request. On Tuesday, the announcement was delayed for the third time when Kadima's potential ministers fought bitterly over promotions and portfolios. Olmert spoke to several ministerial candidates - including MK Haim Ramon twice - Tuesday in an attempt to fix the problems. Sources close to Ramon confirmed a Ma'ariv report that he refused to shake Bar-On's hand in an event they attended at the Prime Minister's Office on Sunday, because he was upset that Bar-On persuaded Olmert to give him the Finance portfolio instead of Ramon. Dan Izenberg contributed to this report