Lieberman, Shalom try to thwart each other's authority

Ministers take a 5% pay cut.

silvan shalom 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
silvan shalom 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Vice Premier Silvan Shalom locked horns in the cabinet Sunday, with Lieberman opposing Shalom's new ministry, and Shalom coming out against Lieberman's heading Israel's strategic dialogue with Russia. Despite Lieberman's objections to the establishment of the ministry for Shalom - the Ministry for Regional Development and the Development of the Negev and the Galilee - the new ministry was approved by a vote of 21-5. All five Israel Beiteinu ministers voted against, arguing it would bite into the authority of the other ministries. Lieberman said that one of his problems with the new ministry was that it was not defined. "The region could be from Cuba to North Korea," he said. "It needs to be defined." Industry and Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who registered objections to the new ministry before the meeting, said it needed to be made clear that the ministry would not initiate new programs, but rather be a coordinating body among the various existing ministries. In the end, he voted for the ministry. Shalom said he was not interested in the ministry being patterned after the model created by Shimon Peres when he was regional development minister earlier this decade. Whereas Peres brought in only 40 staffers, most of them people who were considered close to him, Shalom said he wanted to bring in "professional" staffers, and to build a ministry that would "stay forever," and not be folded with the change of governments. After Lieberman worked against Shalom's ministry, Shalom raised a number of questions during a a vote on appointing Lieberman as head of the newly created strategic dialogue with Russia. Lieberman's appointment was approved, with only Shalom abstaining. While acknowledging that relations with Russia were very important, Shalom said a wider discussion on the matter of a strategic relationship with Russia was needed, especially in light of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's recent meeting with Hamas head Khaled Mashaal in Damascus. Shalom said the strategic dialogue with Russia also had to be considered within the framework of Israel's relationship with the US, and that America's view of this type of dialogue needed to be taken into consideration. In addition, Shalom raised questions about Russia's plans to hold an international conference on the Mideast in Moscow sometime this year, saying that in light of Moscow's contacts with Hamas, this was not the optimal location. Lieberman, who returned Friday from his first visit to Moscow as foreign minister, said the strategic dialogue with Russia was raised with Washington both by the previous and current governments, and that the US made it clear it was not opposed. He also said the dialogue with Russia was not an effort to reprioritize Israel's foreign relations, and that no one was thinking about looking to Russia as an ally to supplant the US. In other cabinet developments, the 30 ministers decided to vote themselves a 5% pay cut, to be in effect until the end of 2010. The cut was proposed by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz in light of the financial global crisis and the the country's deep budgetary cuts.