Labor not giving up finance portfolio

Barak expresses reservations about Amir Peretz as defense minister.

labor ad 298.88 (photo credit:
labor ad 298.88
(photo credit:
Kadima and Labor representatives met on Thursday morning for another round of coalition talks. While the parties have reached a consensus on most major issues, a number of questions remain to be resolved, mainly raising the minimum wage and who will receive the major portfolios. Labor negotiating team member Hagai Merom told Army Radio on Thursday that Labor still insisted on the finance portfolio. "The finance portfolio demand is non-negotiable as far as we're concerned," Merom asserted. "So is our demand for the education portfolio. I definitely wouldn't say that Labor would die if we didn't join the coalition." Next week, negotiating teams will begin to distribute the portfolios, and a tough fight is expected over the finance and education plums. However, sources close to Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert believe that when the dust settles, the finance portfolio will go to a Kadima minister. Senior members of Kadima said Thursday that the new government would be formed by May 4, "with Labor or without it." The Kadima officials said that they did not believe that Olmert would ask President Moshe Katsav for more time to form a coalition, adding that the interim prime minister is determined to pull the government together within the time allotted. Meanwhile, former prime minister Ehud Barak on Thursday expressed reservations about the possible appointment of Labor chair Amir Peretz as Defense Minister. "There's no portfolio that Amir Peretz can't have, because half a million citizens voted for him, but whoever receives a portfolio should have an understanding of the field. Civilians have served as defense minister, but they had extensive experience," Barak told Army Radio. "I'm sure that Amir Peretz will find the job that matches his experience and expertise," Barak continued.