Likud Loyalists Torpedo PM Sharon´s Disengagement Appointments

The Knesset rejected Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial appointment of ministers who supported the Disengagement contrary to the Likud Party's platform Monday evening.

Ezra HaLevi , | updated: 9:02 PM

Prime Minister Sharon refused to hold two separate votes on the appointment of Ehud Olmert and the appointments of Ronnie Bar-On and Ze'ev Boim to his government - even after the Likud "rebels," or "loyalists" as they call themselves – made it clear they would oppose the appointments if lumped together.

The appointments of Bar-On as industry, trade and employment minister and Boim as immigrant absorption minister outraged Likud loyalists due to the fact that the appointments are seen as the payment of a bribe to the two MK's for their betrayal of the Likud Party platform in favor of Sharon's agenda.

Immediately following the vote, PM Sharon took the plenum and read a prepared speech decrying the factionalism of the Knesset. MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union) yelled out, "Factionalism is not the issue - your corruption is!"

Out of the 120 Knesset members, 54 voted for the appointments and 60 MKs opposed. The Likud members who opposed the appointments were MKs Uzi Landau, Michael Ratzon, David Levy, Naomi Blumenthal, Ayoub Kara, Ehud Yatom, Yuli Edelstein, and former finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu. MKs Gilad Erdan, Moshe Kahlon and Yuval Steinitz were not present for the vote and former Likud 'loyalists' Michael Gorolovsky, Leah Ness and Yehiel Hazan voted in favor of the appointments. Labor MK Amram Mitzna broke with party discipline and left the Knesset for the vote.

UTJ MK Meir Porush agreed to vote for the appointments after promised by PM Sharon that a committee to examine the problems facing Hareidi-religious schools would be formed.

About an hour after his failure to pass the appointments, Sharon put forth Olmert's appointment separately, along with that of Labor Party MK Matan Vilnai (Labor) as science and technology minister. The Knesset voted 71-41 to approve Olmert and Vilnai's appointments due to the fact that if Olmert was not installed as Finance Minister Monday, his temporary terms would expire Tuesday, necessitating early elections.

Army Radio's Amit Segal suggested that Sharon brought the vote to the Knesset, even though he knew it would fail to demonstrate to Boim and Bar-On (and their constituents) that he did his best to reward them for supporting the Disengagement, "and if they cannot be rewarded in this Knesset, then they will be in the next one."

MK Yuli Edelstein, one of the loyalists, said that concern for "public hygiene" obligated the Knesset to oppose the appointment of politicians who publicly rejected the decisions of their party, explaining that the extent of corruption, he says, is publicly dirtying the face of Israeli politics.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told the Likud loyalists that they must either allow the government to function or new elections would be called – an eventuality not feared by most of the loyalists anyhow.

Earlier Monday, the parliament also rejected four no-confidence motions. The first was put forth by Shinui Party Chairman Yosef Lapid due to allegation of government corruption, the second by National Union Chairman Benny Elon due to the increase in the cost of bread and the poverty situation, the third by MK Yossi Sarid (Meretz/Yahad), also due to the rise in cost of bread and the fourth by Shas Chairman Eli Yishai due to the Supreme Court decision that, "some of Israel's schoolchildren who learn Torah should be discriminated against due to their worldview" – in Yishai's words.