Hirchson resigns from cabinet

Olmert expected to give Finance portfolio to Interior Minister Roni Bar-On.

AvrahamHirchson 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
AvrahamHirchson 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson submitted his resignation from the cabinet on Sunday ahead of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's expected appointment of Interior Minister Roni Bar-On to Hirchson's post as part of a cabinet reshuffle Wednesday. Kadima sources said Olmert would only make a final decision on appointments on Wednesday but that Bar-On had the edge over MK Haim Ramon and Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit. They said that Ramon's chances of receiving the post had been harmed by the controversy over former president Moshe Katsav's plea agreement, due to Ramon's sexual harassment conviction. Olmert is also expected to make several other appointments. If Bar-On becomes finance minister, Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim could replace him as interior minister, Minister-without-Portfolio Ya'acov Edri could replace Boim and Knesset House Committee chair Ruhama Avraham could join the cabinet. If Ramon does not receive the Finance portfolio, Olmert has vowed to create another portfolio for him. A coalition of women's groups has vowed to appeal to the High Court of Justice to prevent Ramon's appointment no matter what cabinet post he is given. Hirchson suspended himself from the cabinet more than two months ago to fight extortion charges against him. He intends to remain an MK, but he has only entered the Knesset once since he suspended himself to cast a vote for President-elect Shimon Peres. Olmert will meanwhile continue as interim finance minister. "I promised my family I would devote all my time to clearing my name," Hirchson wrote in his resignation letter. "Unfortunately, the path toward proving my innocence is long and depends on many people who I am waiting for to finish their work. Out of personal responsibility, I am resigning to clear the way for a new finance minister, who can devote his full effort to helping the economy grow and fighting unemployment and poverty." Hirchson thanked Olmert in the letter for his personal and professional support, his encouragement and his friendship. The resignation will take effect on Tuesday at 9 a.m., 48 hours after it was submitted. In Sunday's cabinet meeting, Olmert wished Hirchson well and praised him for "putting the good of the country ahead of his own personal interest." The prime minister said he believed in Hirchson's innocence.