Labor joins Shas in threats to break up coalition

Ami Ayalon says party will leave government if MK Avishay Braverman is not appointed soon to Knesset Finance Committee chairman.

avishay braverman 88 224 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
avishay braverman 88 224 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not be able to bring new cabinet appointments to a Knesset vote on Wednesday as he had intended, because no progress was made Tuesday to resolve a dispute with Shas over child welfare allowances. Olmert wanted to ask the Knesset to approve the appointments of Minister-without-Portfolio Ruhama Avraham (Kadima) as tourism minister, Kadima faction chairman Eli Aflalo as Negev and Galilee development minister and Labor MK Avishay Braverman as Knesset Finance Committee chairman. Shas first tried to block the appointments in an effort to obtain a raise in the allowances and then upgraded the request to a threat against the coalition. Labor added its own threat Monday as Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon said the party would leave the government if Braverman, his political ally, was not appointed soon. "It would be a mistake to remain in the government if Avishay is not given the job within a day or two," Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post. "I'm not just saying this because he is my friend, but because of who the man is and what his professional skills are [as an internationally respected economist]. If he doesn't get the job, our partnership [with Kadima] is worthless." Without the support of Shas's 12 lawmakers, Olmert's 67-MK coalition would not be able to approve the appointments of Braverman, Avraham and Aflalo. Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima) tried to settle differences with Shas by visiting the home of its spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef late Monday night. Bar-On told the rabbi that raising child welfare allowances would exacerbate poverty and not diminish it. He said a better approach to fighting poverty would be to continue investing vast sums in education, infrastructure and social services. "I spoke to the rabbi and presented the prime minister's point of view and mine, and I hope that in the wake of our conversation, our cooperation in the coalition can continue for a long time," Bar-On told reporters after the meeting. But Shas chairman Eli Yishai said he was unconvinced and that he still intended to recommend to the party's Council of Torah Sages to leave the coalition unless a compromise was reached on the payments in the ongoing talks with the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office. "Poor families need these payments like oxygen," Yishai said. "I serve in the cabinet and see the billions that are invested, but at least part has to come in increased child welfare allowances. We have been demanding this from the start of this government. But I don't like to make threats and set deadlines. We will continue talking and hopefully things will eventually progress."