Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz
Photo: Haim Tzach
Photo: Amir Cohen
Mofaz. To bid farewell to Defense Ministry
Photo: Amir Cohen
Photo: Yaron Brenner
Labor's Yuli Tamir. Future education minister
Photo: Yaron Brenner

Labor to receive 7 portfolios

Coalition negotiations between Kadima, Labor Party gain momentum: In secret meeting Thursday night between PM Ehud Olmert, Labor Chairman Amir Peretz, parties agree Labor to receive defense, education, agriculture ministries

Dramatic progress in coalition talks: In a secret meering Thursday night, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz two agreed that Labor would receive seven portfolios in the new government, including the defense, education and agriculture ministries. The Finance Ministry will remain in the hands of Kadima.


The secret meeting was first published by Israel Radio Saturday morning. Peretz may also be appointed deputy prime minister.


As the negotiations between Labor and Kadima progressed, Labor officials expressed their fear that the party would have to settle for a smaller number of portfolios than expected – five or six. According to the agreement, however, Labor will have seven ministers, including a minister without a portfolio.


It appears that Amir Peretz will receive the Defense Ministry, Yuli Tamir will be the next education minister, and Shalom Simhon will be agriculture minister.


A senior Labor source told Ynet: "We achieved great accomplishments, both on the basic guidelines and on the portfolio level. The talks will continue and the negotiations have not come to an end. Not everything has been settled, but all the issues are at some stage or another of agreement, and according to estimations, everything will be agreed upon shortly."


The Labor team received the basic guidelines draft on Sunday, and the parties have been discussing amendments and changes to the document.


It appears that the basic guidelines will be based on Olmert's victory speech on Election Night, in which he did not mention the word "convergence," in order to allow Shas and Israel Our Home became part of the coalition.


No agreement over minimum wage


So far, the two parties reached understandings mainly on the diplomatic issue. The parties agreed not to hold a referendum on the difficult decisions expected to be made during Olmert government's term, but the arguments on the social-economic issues remain.


Another meeting between the two parties' negotiation teams is expected to take place Saturday night in order to complete the agreement's details.


Attorney David Libai, chairman of Labor's negotiations team, recently said that the current draft was “too vague” and stressed that Labor only agrees to unilateral policy as a last resort on the condition that bilateral efforts fail.


“We are not insisting it be written out that there will be a disengagement or convergence. We know that this interpretation bothers Shas and we don’t want to torpedo their joining the government. With that, though, there are other wordings that we do insist on,” he added.


“We oppose wording of wide national agreement. We refuse to accept anything against Ariel Sharon’s legacy. It must be clear from the Basic Principles that whoever joins the government is willing to pursue unilateral withdrawal only if negotiations with the Palestinians fail. We wish to clarify that there won’t be any transfer, nor will there be a national referendum,” he noted.


The two parties will still be required to solve the argument around the minimum wage issue. The negotiations teams met during the Passover holiday and continued to discuss the matter, but did not reach an agreement that would satisfy the two parties.


Labor demands a raise of NIS 500 (about USD 106) in the minimum wage by September, while Kadima is only ready to commit to a raise of NIS 250 (about USD 53) this year. However, sources at both parties estimated that they would be able to reach a compromise which would satisfy both sides.


Knesset Member Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) said in response to the political developments that "the news on the distribution of portfolios to the Labor Party shows that it is led by seats, not by principles."


"Labor also agreed that Avigdor Lieberman's racist party Israel Our Home would be part of the coalition," Gal-On added.


פרסום ראשון: 04.22.06, 11:37
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