PM to hand out UTJ-reserved appointments if last bid fails

Olmert to give Finance Committee to Israel Beiteinu if no breakthrough made on coalition deal.

Stas Misezhnikov 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Stas Misezhnikov 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After more than six months of trying to add United Torah Judaism to the coalition, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is giving negotiations one more week to achieve a breakthrough before he begins handing out the appointments he has reserved for them, coalition officials told The Jerusalem Post. According to an official closely involved in the coalition negotiations process, Olmert will take control of the Finance Committee away from United Torah Judaism MK Ya'acov Litzman, and instead give it to one of the Israel Beiteinu MKs. He will also hold talks to give control of the Social Affairs Ministry to the Labor Party or to someone within his own Kadima Party. The Finance Committee, considered among the top three most important committees in the Knesset, will be especially important in the coming weeks as it pushes through approval of the 2007 Budget and Economics Arrangements Bill. While Litzman was instrumental in helping Olmert pass the 2006 budget, his control of the committee was believed to be conditional on United Torah Judaism joining the coalition. Olmert has also held out the Social Affairs Ministry for them. Part of Israel Beiteinu's coalition agreement with Olmert included control of a major Knesset committee. While the Finance Committee was not named in particular, party MKs have openly demanded control of it and stressed their many budgetary demands as the newest members of Olmert's coalition. MK Esterina Tartman, who relinquished control of the Knesset's State Control Committee Wednesday due to Knesset rules that demand that the committee be held by a member of the opposition, still considers herself in the running for the chairmanship of the Finance Committee. On Thursday, however, it appeared that Israel Beiteinu was likely to make MK Stas Meseznicov, who holds a master's degree in economics and who currently serves on the committee, the chairman. Sources close to Olmert said that he was waiting for the date of the Labor Party primaries to be announced before he decided what to do with the Social Affairs Ministry. Labor Party Chairman and Defense Minister Amir Peretz is currently facing a number of challenges to his control of the party, and it is believed that if the elections were held in March or May, he would stand a greater chance of losing the elections.