JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided Wednesday to withdraw his proposal to appoint three new ministers to his cabinet, for fear that he would not have the necessary majority for Knesset approval.
Sharon had requested to appoint Knesset members Ronnie Bar-On as Absorption Minister, Ze'ev Boim as Knesset - Government relations and Ephraim Sneh as minister without portfolio. In addition, Matan Vilnai was to become Science Minister.
Earlier, Sharon said they had been rewarded for voting in favor of his budget and removing the last roadblock to a planned disengagement from the Gaza Strip this summer.
The appointment of the three new ministers, including one from the left-wing Labor party that joined his government earlier this year to promote the pullout, sparked outrage among rightists who oppose the plan and other legislators who voted against the budget on Tuesday to try and oust Sharon.
The budget vote passed in the Knesset by 58-36. Had the ballot failed, Sharon would have been forced to call for new elections.
'It's payment for a vote'
The appointments must be passed by a majority of Knesset members before they take effect. Almost 70 of the 120 legislators are expected to oppose them.
“There haven’t been appointments like these since Caligula appointed his horse to the Roman council,” said Yossi Sarid, head of the left-wing Yahad party. “This is just a whim, it’s payment for a vote.”
National Union member Benny Elon, a former minister who Sharon fired last year over his opposition to the Gaza pullout, said Sharon’s decision to widen the government was “governmental tyranny.”
“The prime minister’s reward system is reminiscent of anti-democratic societies,” said Yitzhak Cohen of the religious Shas party.
Shinui also against appointments
Shinui party and opposition head Yosef Lapid,
who secured final support for the budget when Sharon granted additional funds to his faction’s causes, said his party would also vote against the appointments.
Lapid pulled his 15-member faction out of Sharon’s government in December over a budget row.
Ministers receive perks such as personal secretaries, advisers and spokespeople as well as private drivers.