Kadima MKs vie for Justice Ministry

Top candidates: Interior Minister Bar-On, former justice minister Sheetrit.

ramon press conf 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
ramon press conf 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The likely resignation of Haim Ramon from the Justice Ministry on Sunday created political turmoil in Kadima on Thursday as politicians lined up for the plum portfolio. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office declined to speculate about who might replace Ramon as justice minister. But Kadima officials hinted that Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, a veteran lawyer and close confidant of Olmert, could be in line for a promotion. They also mentioned the names of former justice ministers Dan Meridor and Meir Sheetrit, and Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center president Prof. Uriel Reichman. None of the candidates agreed to comment on the vacancy. Olmert had breakfast with Sheetrit at his Jerusalem residence on Wednesday and tried to heal relations between the two that hit a nadir after Olmert gave the Finance portfolio that Sheetrit sought to Avraham Herschson. Meridor has been friends with Olmert for decades. Reichman ran for the Knesset with Kadima because former prime minister Ariel Sharon had promised him the Education portfolio, but he quit the Knesset when Olmert did not honor that promise. Bar-On served as attorney general for a mere 24 hours in 1997. He stepped down amid a public outcry after it was alleged that he had been selected to lessen the punishment facing Shas leader Aryeh Deri over corruption charges in return for Deri's support of the Hebron Agreement. He was also perceived as being a party functionary without the experience or skills for the job of the state's top legal official. Appointing Bar-On could allow Olmert to make up for his broken promise to Russian immigrant voters by appointing disgruntled Kadima MK Marina Solodkin as interior minister. Or he could promote Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim to the Interior Ministry and give his post to Solodkin. Solodkin said she was not holding her breath, but that she considered herself worthy of holding the Absorption or Welfare portfolios. She said if Olmert had acted sensibly, he would have given her a portfolio when his government was formed. Solodkin called for a reshuffle of the cabinet. "I believe in a professional cabinet," she said. "A security person should be defense minister and a welfare person should be welfare minister. The prime minister and defense minister should realize that the public is angry at their senseless steps." Kadima has been rocked by investigations affecting Ramon, Olmert, Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi and faction chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki. Officials in Olmert's office said the prime minister had not and would not ask Ramon to quit and had not considered who might replace him.