Olmert okayed as Kadima interim leader

Portfolios assigned to ministers, to be brought to cabinet for approval Wed.

ehud olmert 88 (photo credit: )
ehud olmert 88
(photo credit: )
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert officially took over from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as the interim head of the Kadima Party on Monday. The move came at the first meeting of Kadima's Knesset faction since Sharon's January 4 stroke. The faction voted to appoint Olmert in a bittersweet meeting attended by most of the 32 candidates currently on the Kadima list. Olmert was given all the authority that Sharon enjoyed, including the right to determine the order of the list. No one in Kadima objected. "Kadima was a creation of the prime minister, and we all owe the formation of the party to him," faction chairman Roni Bar-On said. "Arik connected us and we must remember that we all owe him a debt of gratitude. We still hope Sharon will still lead Israel and us. But no party has the experienced team that we have." Olmert said he had received messages praising Sharon from the entire world. He said Sharon made an impression on the world "because of his bravery in doing what he set out to do against all odds, knowing that he was risking his political base." Minister-without-Portfolio Tzahi Hanegbi was named Kadima's campaign chairman in place of Olmert, and MK Haim Ramon was appointed to replace him. Ramon handed in his letter of resignation from the Knesset on Monday, joining Labor MKs Shimon Peres and Dalia Itzik. The three quit as a precautionary measure due to a law that prevents MKs who switched parties from running for Knesset with their new party. Labor officials intend to petition the Central Elections Committee to disqualify Peres, Itzik and Ramon from running with Kadima. Because of a ruling that the three could not be appointed ministers, Olmert distributed additional portfolios on Monday to the cabinet's current seven ministers and MKs Ze'ev Boim, Roni Bar-On and Ya'acov Edri, who will be appointed ministers in Wednesday's cabinet meeting. Bar-On was named national infrastructure minister and science and technology minister. Boim received the Housing and Construction and Agriculture and Rural Development portfolios, and Edri will be health minister and minister of Negev and Galilee development. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni officially became foreign minister on Monday, when Likud MK Silvan Shalom's resignation from the cabinet took effect. Livni will formally remain immigrant absorption minister, but she announced that she would assign all of the duties of the position to her deputy, Kadima MK Marina Solodkin. Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit will add the Education portfolio and Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra was given the Environment portfolio. Sheetrit said education minister was his dream job. "I don't need any training; I've been working in this field for a long time," Sheetrit said. "The teachers are 300,000 soldiers who need support in their battle and I will do my best to help them."