Pensioners Party Threatens Government Stability

MK Sharoni threatened to quit the coalition if the government does not increase pension benefits; or if it divides Jerusalem, whichever comes first

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz ,

Gil-Pensioners party Knesset Member Moshe Sharoni threatened on Tuesday that the party will quit the coalition if the government does not increase pension benefits; or if it votes to divide Jerusalem, whichever comes first.

MK Sharoni, chairman of the Gil parliament faction, told party members Monday that "the good times are over" for the government. Speaking before the opening of the winter
"The good times are over" for the government.
session of the Knesset, Sharoni warned, "We will not let the government make a circus out of the coalition."

The party joined the Kadima-Labor-Shas coalition in return for promises of enhanced aid for retired people. However, Gil has lost support in recent polls because of its backtracking on several campaign promises.

There were 729,577 pensioners in Israel as of August 2007, according to the National Insurance Institute. Among them, 11% were receiving pension benefits solely by dint of having immigrated to Israel when they were already past the age of retirement. The number of non-immigrant pensioners has been growing steadily by about 3.5 % annually for the past seven years; whereas, a slowdown in immigration of retirees has led to a 4% annual drop in the number of those receiving pension benefits due to their new immigrant status. Twenty-six percent of all pensioners or their spouses are receiving additional financial assistance from the state, but among new immigrant pensioners that figure is as high as 95%. 

Official retirement age in Israel is 61 years and four months for women and 66 years and four months for men.

Not Just Pensions, Also Jerusalem
Aside from the party's raison d'etre, several Gil Knesset representatives have expressed strong opposition to any division of Jerusalem and other concessions to the Palestinian Authority (PA), at least at a time when terrorist attacks are continuing.

On September 19, MK Sharoni, who is also Chairman of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, said that his party would quit the government if it accepts Deputy Prime Minister Chaim Ramon's plan for handing over parts of Jerusalem to the PA. MK Sharoni's views are among the most nationalist of the party's MKs.

"The government may not talk about dividing Jerusalem. It has no mandate to do so," Sharoni said in a Hebrew-language interview on Arutz Sheva Radio. As for the upcoming Middle East summit in the United States, MK Sharoni predicted it would fail. "Nothing good" would come from it, he said.