Olmert to Katzav: I Have a Government

The consent of Shas to join Olmert's coalition provided the margin of difference, and Olmert was able to inform President Katzav today that he has succeeded in forming a government.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 14:36

Shas demanded and received four ministerial positions, 1.8 billion shekels for child allowance payments, understandings regarding civil marriages - and permission not to vote for the unilateral withdrawal plan when and if it is presented.

The government, as it stands now, numbers 67 MKs: Kadima-Pensioners (36), Labor (19), and Shas (12). United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beiteinu are still candidates to join the government coalition.

The road now appears to be clear for Ehud Olmert, as head of the new government, to attempt to carry out his unilateral withdrawal plan. Shas says it will vote against it, or possibly even quit the government, when and if the plan is presented to the Knesset. However, Olmert might not need their votes at the time, as he might choose to rely on the votes of non-government parties such as Meretz and the Arabs.

Arutz-7 attempted to speak with Shas MKs about this issue, but was unsuccessful. MK Amnon Cohen refused to talk; yesterday he said that the agreement had not been signed yet and that he would not address it in any way, and today he said he didn't know anything about it and refused to talk. MK Yitzchak Cohen said he was busy, and MK David Azulai's cell phone did not answer.

Shas Party spokesman Ro'i Lachmanovitch agreed to speak on Arutz-7 and said that if and when the withdrawal issue arises, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef will decide how the party's MKs are to vote. Asked what need there would be to discuss it given his long-standing objections to unilateral land-giveaways, Lachmanovitch said, "It depends on the circumstances. But I truly don't want to get into that now, because not only has the egg not yet been hatched, the chicken hasn't even been born."

Shas leader Eli Yishai promised former MK Chanan Porat, as well as others, that he would not sign an agreement that included the uprooting of communities.

Asked afterwards to relate to the fact that his party, by the very act of joining the coalition, enables the establishment of the government and the future presentation of the withdrawal plan, Lachmanovitch said, "If we hadn't joined, Olmert would have taken Yisrael Beiteinu and Meretz... Yisrael Beiteinu has long accepted the withdrawal plan."

Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman recently told Army Radio, "I have said clearly, even after the elections, that we are willing to talk about concessions and the formation of new borders. I think that new borders that are recognized by the international community are a worthwhile compensation. A withdrawal without any compensation is a surrender to terrorism. We already retreated without anything in return in Gush Katif, and we see what we received: Hamas and Kassams..."

United Torah Judaism and the National Union/National Religious Party have only criticism for Shas. "Their only social welfare achievement was to get jobs [ministerial positions - ed.] for four of their party leaders," according to a statement by NU/NRP.

UTJ said that Shas' claimed coalition achievements are less than they seem. UTJ officials said that some of the money Shas received for child allowances would have been given in any event, while other portions of it are to be used for "children at risk" and not for across-the-board child allowances. The Ashkenazi hareidi-religious party also had criticism of Shas' alleged religious services gains.

In the meanwhile, Ehud Olmert announced his appointments for Kadima Party ministers today. They are:

1. Ehud Olmert - Prime Minister
2. Shimon Peres (formerly of Labor) - Minister for the Development of the Galilee and Negev, Assistant Prime Minister
3. Tzippy Livny - Foreign Minister
4. Sha'ul Mofaz - Transportation Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, member of the security mini-cabinet, and responsible for Strategic Dialogue
5. Chaim Ramon (formerly of Labor) - Justice Minister
6. Avraham Hirschson - Finance Minister
7. Ze'ev Boim - Absorption Minister
8. Avi Dichter - Minister of Public Security
9. Meir Sheetrit - Housing Minister, Israel Lands Authority, secret services, and Chairman of the Non-Jewish Sector Affairs Committee
10. Roni Bar'on - Interior Minister
11. Gideon Ezra - Minister of the Environment
12. Yaakov Edry - Liaison Minister Between Government and Knesset

Dalia Itzik (formerly of Labor) will be the Knesset Speaker.

The Labor Party's Central Committee narrowly approved on Sunday party leader Amir Peretz's proposal for the party's six ministers. The close vote showed that Peretz has a strong internal opposition, but for the meanwhile, the ministers will be as follows:

Amir Peretz - Defense Minister
Eitan Cabel - minister without portfolio, responsible for the Israel Broadcasting Authority
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer - Infrastructures Minister
Yitzchak Herzog - Tourism Minister
Yuli Tamir - Education Minister
Shalom Simchon - Agriculture Minister
Ophir Pines - Minister of Culture and Sport.

Other ministers include:
Eli Yishai (Shas) - Minister of Trade and Deputy Prime Minister
Ariel Atias (Shas) - Minister of Communications
Yitzchak Cohen (Shas) - minister without portfolio
Meshulam Nahari (Shas) - minister without portfolio
Yaakov Ben Yizri (Pensioners) - Health
Rafi Eitan (Pensioners) - Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, responsible for Pensioners' Affairs