Barak Faction Gets Sweet Deal

Besides hanging on to their present ministries, the 'Independence' faction will receive 2 more: Industry, Trade & Labor, and Homefront Defense.

Gil Ronen , | updated: 9:45 AM

Cabinet meeting, bottles on table
Cabinet meeting, bottles on table
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Reports from the negotiations between the coalition and Ehud Barak's breakaway faction indicate the five-person faction will have four ministerial portfolios. The details of the deal were almost certainly finalized between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Barak before Barak announced his split from Labor, and the "negotiations" being carried out Tuesday morning are mostly for show. 

Besides hanging on to the Defense and Agriculture ministries, Barak and his loyal followers will also receive custodianship of  the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor and a new portfolio - Minister of Homefront Defense in the Defense Ministry and Minister in Charge of Minorities.

The agreement signed by Likud and Independence includes the following:
  • Ehud Barak will remain Defense Minister and be Deputy Prime Minister.
  • Shalom Simchon, who is currently Minister of Agriculture, will be Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor instead of Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
  • Matan Vilnai, currently Deputy Defense Minister, will become a full-fledged minister within the Ministry of Defense. His portfolio will include Homefront Defense and Minorities. The separate ministry for Minorities will be canceled.
  • MK Orit Noked will be Minister of Agriculture.
  • MK Einat Wilf will be Independence faction chairperson and will head the Knesset's Aliyah Absorption Committee.

The deal is considered unprecedented in terms of the political price that the coalition is willing to pay a small faction.

There will be no Welfare Minister. Prime Minister Netanyahu will head this ministry for the time being, possibly in a bid to gain a more "social" image for himself. Netanyahu has often been accused of being too "capitalistic" and not caring enough for the downtrodden classes.