Tsomet merger eases Justice for the Elderly faction's money crunch

House C'tee approves move after slamming proposed merger with Social Justice Party.

The cash-strapped Justice for the Elderly Knesset faction could finally breathe a little bit easier Monday after the Knesset House Committee approved their merger with the practically defunct Tsomet Party. The breakaway faction from the GIL Pensioners Party had gained recognition as a Knesset faction weeks ago, but was left without any funding under the Party Finance Law after their merger with Arkadi Gaydamak's Social Justice Party was met with massive criticism by members of the House Committee. Twice, the faction's request for split was the subject of fiery House Committee meetings in which the partnership was criticized as "bringing the underworld into the Knesset." Concerned that his faction's split from GIL would be rejected by the House Committee, Justice for the Elderly leader MK Moshe Sharoni broke off the agreement with the Social Justice Party, and in doing so, lost out on thousands of shekels of party funds. But as a Knesset faction without a party affiliation, Sharoni's three-person faction was denied basic subsidies, including funding for staff members, and the search for a party willing to adopt the rebel pensioners began. Tsomet was founded over 20 years ago by retired chief of general staff Rafael Eitan as a secular right-wing party. Throughout most of its history, Tsomet ran together with other parties, including Tehiya and Likud. Like GIL, Tsomet enjoyed a one-term surprise victory, winning eight seats in the 1992 elections, but also like GIL, was plagued by party splits and allegations that - other than Eitan - its members lacked political experience. Tsomet has not enjoyed Knesset representation since the 1999 elections, and in the 2006 elections won a mere 1,342 votes.