Olmert to announce cabinet reshuffle

Announcement held up Tuesday after Ramon spars with Bar-On, Edri with Boim.

bar-on boim 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
bar-on boim 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is set to convene his cabinet on Wednesday afternoon to announce the cabinet reshuffle. The announcement was delayed for the third time Tuesday when Kadima's potential ministers fought bitterly over promotions and portfolios. Olmert hoped to bring the appointments to a vote in the cabinet and the Knesset, despite several unresolved issues. Olmert spoke to several ministerial candidates - including MK Haim Ramon twice - Tuesday in an attempt to fix the problems. The prime minister revealed that he had decided to promote his ally, Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim to interior minister and give Minister-without-Portfolio Ya'akov Edri Boim's job. But Edri said he was not interested in the portfolio. Sources close to Ramon confirmed a Ma'ariv report that he refused to shake incoming Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On's hand in an event they attended at the Prime Minister's Office on Sunday, because he was upset that Bar-On persuaded Olmert to give him the Finance portfolio instead of Ramon. "You are a dog," Ramon told Bar-On, in a Hebrew pejorative referring to someone who treats another badly. "You went over my head. You ran a personal campaign against me." Ramon's associates revealed that Olmert had secretly promised him the Finance portfolio three months ago, shortly after a judge ruled that he could legally return to the cabinet despite his sexual harassment conviction. Olmert backtracked after Bar-On and others convinced him that the legal challenge to Ramon's appointment made it politically and legally unwise. Olmert reportedly begged Ramon in their meetings to take President-elect Shimon Peres's title of vice premier and any responsibilities he wanted, but Ramon said he was not interested in taking away powers from any other minister and asked to be left out of the reshuffle. Sources close to Ramon said he was confident his appointment would have survived a challenge from women's groups to the High Court of Justice. On January 31, Ramon was convicted of an indecent act for forcibly kissing a female soldier. However the court later ruled that his offense did not constitute moral turpitude, leaving no legal barrier to him holding public office. Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran on Tuesday rejected a request by Emunah, the National Religious Women's Organization to block the government and Knesset from approving the appointment of Ramon as vice-premier. The Emunah Organization asked the High Court for an interim injunction which would have prevented Ramon's appointment until after the court ruled on the core of the petition asking it to reject the appointment altogether. However, Joubran gave the state 10 days to respond to the petition and did nothing to block Ramon's appointment in the meantime. According to the petition, "the appointment of [Ramon] - a convicted criminal - as a minister in the cabinet is an extremely unreasonable one. It causes severe damage to the public's faith in the public administration as well as the honor and status of the government and of cabinet ministers in the state of Israel and therefore disqualifies him from serving as one." In an interview with Israel Radio news, Emuna Chairwoman Leora Minka said, "I think it borders on cynicism [sic] that the prime minister's aides are begging Ramon to please come back to the government after a court of law said what it said about him." Emuna's lawyer, Pinhas Maoz, pointed out in the petition that the court had accused Ramon of "not sticking to the truth" in his testimony, of "unfairly hurting the woman who complained against him for the sake of his case," and for not genuinely feeling remorse over what he did. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told reporters that he opposed appointing Ramon. "I respect Ramon personally but it's wrong for a minister - no matter who he is - who has been convicted in the courts to return to the cabinet so fast after a matter of months," Dichter said. "I said this to the prime minister and I will try to prevent the appointment until the last moment."