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Monday, March 30, 2009

New Israeli Gov’t to Be Sworn in at 5 pm Tuesday

30/03/2009 Hanan Awarekeh reported in AlmanarTV

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has officially asked the Knesset hold a swearing in ceremony for his new government at 5 pm Tuesday.

Cabinet Secretary-designate Zvi Hauser has already been asked to see that a new government table, big enough to accommodate all of the ministers, would be installed.

Netanyahu will summon senior members of the Likud to his new Knesset chambers Monday and inform each of them which office they have been assigned.

Sources close to the PM-designate estimated that the Likud would head 12 government bureaus, and along with other members of the coalition - Yisrael Beiteinu, Labor, Shas and Habayit Hayehudi - making a total of 30 ministers.

Israel will usher in a new political era as soon as Knesset Member Reuven Rivlin's nomination for Knesset speaker is confirmed.

The Likud chairman is said to be keeping his "cards" close to his chest and even those closest to him are having trouble guessing which one of the Likud members have been shortlisted. "This is agonizing," a senior Likud member told Ynet. "This wait is just very uncomfortable."

For now, it seems that the only two nominations secured are those of Prof. Yaakov Ne'eman for the Justice Ministry and MK Gideon Sa'ar for the Education Ministry.

MK Yisrael Katz is rumored to be the leading candidate for the Transportation Ministry, MK Gilad Erdan is likely to be named to the Environmental Protection Ministry, MK Moshe Kahlon is in the lead for the Communications Ministry and MK Limor Livnat for the Science, Culture and Sport's Ministry.

Knesset Member Moshe Yaalon is rumored to head the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and MKs Benny Begin and Dan Meridor are to serve as ministers in the Prime Minister's Office.

One prestigious office which has yet to be tapped is the Treasury. It is still unclear whether Netanyahu will choose to head the ministry himself. Likud members said over the weekend that Meridor agreed to head the Finance Ministry, but MK Yuval Steinitz has also reportedly expressed his interest in the office.

Other positions still to be named are those of the vice premier, the prime minister's locum tenens, minister for development of the Negev and Galilee and the Knesset liaison.

Monday morning saw the party name Knesset Member Zeev Elkin its faction chairman. Elkin won 20 votes, while Knesset Member Danny Danon – who was also bidding for the position – won seven votes.

Meanwhile, Labor Chairman Ehud Barak completed naming his picks for ministers under the next coalition: Barak himself will be named defense minister, MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer was tapped for the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry; MK Shalom Simhon stands to continue in the Agriculture Ministry; Isaac Herzog will stay on as minister of social affairs; MK Avishay Braverman was tapped for minister of minority affairs and member of the socio-economic cabinet, MK Matan Vilnai is to remain deputy defense minister and MK Orit Noked will be named deputy industry, trade and labor minister.

Meanwhile, sources close to Netanyahu's Likud rival, MK Silvan Shalom Shalom said Sunday night that Shalom intends to reject an offer from Netanyahu on Monday to receive the honorary title of vice premier and responsibility for regional cooperation.

Netanyahu hoped the two roles, which were both held by Israeli President Shimon Peres in the past, would satisfy Shalom. But Shalom's associates said he would settle for nothing less than the Finance portfolio and the title of vice prime minister, which involves filling in as acting prime minister when the prime minister is abroad or incapacitated and allowed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to succeed Ariel Sharon.

Supporters of Shalom in the Likud central committee threatened that if Netanyahu did not improve his offer to Shalom, they would "declare war" against him and use the party's institutions to try to bring him down. They said Shalom would also "join the opposition" to Netanyahu in the Knesset.

"Bibi will regret disrespecting Silvan," central committee member Meir Cohen of Ramle said Sunday night. "Silvan has been completely loyal to Netanyahu, but he is ungrateful to Shalom, who is responsible for more of the Likud's mandates than Bibi."

Shalom was not the only malcontent in the Likud faction Sunday night, as leaks emerged about whom Netanyahu would appoint as ministers.

Druse MK Ayoub Kara, who campaigned vigorously for a portfolio, was enraged to hear that he would not be a minister, and his associates accused Netanyahu of racism.

"Being loyal and honest in politics apparently doesn't get you anywhere in this country," a source close to Kara said. "He was more loyal to Netanyahu than anyone, and he is more experienced than most of the ministerial candidates. The only explanation is that Netanyahu doesn't want there to be a non-Jewish leader in the Likud."

Women's groups protested Netanyahu's intention to appoint only one female minister, MK Limor Livnat, who will join incoming Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver of Israel Beiteinu as the only women in the cabinet.

Netanyahu was up late considering and reconsidering his ministerial appointments. One of his biggest problems was finding roles for the three celebrities who joined or rejoined the Likud with much fanfare during the campaign: Moshe Ya'alon, Dan Meridor and Bennie Begin.

Ideas raised included appointing Ya'alon as a minister for higher education, reviving Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman's former Strategic Affairs Ministry and making Meridor a minister-without-portfolio in charge of intelligence services.

Kadima leader Tzipi Livni mocked Netanyahu for giving up too much to his coalition partners, in a meeting with her faction at her Tel Aviv home. She vowed to lead a "fighting opposition," and warned that Netanyahu's government would lead to "anarchy" because people were losing their faith in politics.

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