Media + Pensioners = Love

The Gil leaders have been happy to take turns in the limelight.

elections06.article.298 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The minibus that drove into the grounds of Beit Hanassi late Monday morning carried the cautionary message "Child Passengers" emblazoned on the rear window. But the eight people who emerged were hardly children. They were the seven incoming Knesset Members from the Gil Pensioners Party. Accompanying them was Ruta Danino, a founder of the nonprofit organization turned political party. The Gil team asked President Moshe Katsav to designate Kadima leader Ehud Olmert to form the next government. The Gil leaders have been happy to take turns in the limelight. And the media, for their part, has so far put their cynicism on the back burner. When the party members emerged from the meeting with Katsav, Gil chairman Rafi Eitan had to be persuaded to approach the microphone, although once he get there he was far from reticent. "If you want to be analytical," said Eitan, "Olmert should be the [choice] because he has the majority, and he has the best chance to do something constructive in a short time." Asked whether it might be better to accept Labor's proposal to form an emergency socioeconomic government led by Labor Chairman Amir Peretz rather than one led by Kadima, which has not placed social welfare issues at the top of its platform, Eitan said, "We'll get Olmert to put our issues on his agenda." It would be best, he said, if Kadima and Labor worked together to form a government. Asked which ministerial portfolios they wanted for their party, the members of the delegation said everyone was familiar with their demands, and that if they received portfolios they would ask for those that would do the most good for their constituents. Eitan said the most important issue for Gil would be the identity of the next finance minister. He said he wouldn't object to Peretz being in charge of the Treasury. Asked if he might take the portfolio for himself, Eitan took a moment to think it over and then broke into a big grin. "Why not," he said. Relating to the cordial relations that existed among the Gil representatives, Ya'acov Ben-Yizri, deputy chairman of the Pensioners' Party and an expert on the public health system, said, "we're not people looking for careers. We've already had careers. But we do want to do the right thing by all the young people who voted for us, who showed us respect and who enabled us to do something for their grandparents." Ben-Yizri said Gil wanted to be in the government coalition "because that's the only way we can exert influence and work effectively on behalf of senior citizens."