The entire Labor faction would vote against Dalia Itzik in a secret-ballot vote for Knesset speaker even if she is the preferred candidate of Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, sources in Labor revealed on Sunday.
Olmert is expected to decide by the end of the month between Itzik and his longtime confidant and childhood friend, Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim. Laborites did not hide their preference for Boim over Itzik, who left Labor for Kadima after climbing her way up through various positions in the party.
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"Boim is loyal to the prime minister, while the likelihood that [Itzik] would be loyal would make a bad bet in Las Vegas," a senior Labor MK said. "We don't like anyone that betrayed us, but the main issue is that it is clear that she is not fit to be speaker. Boim is an expert on the Knesset. She never worked hard on parliamentary work."
Another Labor official added that "on a personal level, she does not have a likeable personality and she has bad blood with many people in the party."
Itzik responded that Laborites were acting out of personal spite against her and that she had good relations with every Knesset faction. She said her experience as an attorney, a Knesset committee chairwoman and Labor faction head prepared her for the position and that the chance of having a woman speaker for the first time was an added value.
She said that the forthcoming Knesset would be "stormy," so Olmert would need someone who could win the respect of all the parties and not merely be "the prime minister's lackey," referring to Boim.
Boim responded that he considered himself a worthy candidate from his experience as coalition chairman and his three terms in the Knesset. He said he spoke to Olmert before the holiday and that he told him he had not decided yet.
"My relationship with Olmert would definitely help me succeed," Boim said. "We have all seen the problems that arise when there is an antagonistic relationship between the prime minister and the speaker. He will have to decide whether he prefers to have me as Knesset speaker or near him at the cabinet table." Boim referred to the problems between former prime minister Ehud Barak and Avraham Burg and between former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Reuven Rivlin. After Burg defeated Barak's candidate for speaker, Shalom Simhon, Burg infamously gestured to Barak that he should choke.
If Kadima were to give away the Immigrant Absorption portfolio to Israel Beiteinu instead of keeping it for current deputy minister Marina Solodkin, Kadima could use another female minister - a situation that could benefit Boim. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Labor MK Yuli Tamir are seen as the only definite female cabinet appointees.