Hard-Liners Say Likud-Labor Deal Is Tantamount to Corruption

By Mazal Mualem (Haaretz)

Published March 24, 2009.

The price Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu paid to Labor in exchange for joining the coalition is tantamount to corruption, senior Likud officials said Tuesday after the Labor Party central committee voted in favor of joining the Likud-led government.

Under the coalition agreement, forged between Labor Chairman Ehud Barak and Likud leader Netanyahu early Tuesday, an administration led by Netanyahu would respect all of Israel’s international agreements, a formula that includes accords envisaging Palestinian statehood.

In addition, the Labor Party was promised several ministerial posts, including that of Defense Minister, which will be retained by Barak.

“Bibi paid Labor a corrupt price. He simply sold everything in exchange for half a faction,” the officials said, using Netanyahu’s nickname. The officials were incensed by the fact that the Trade, Labor and Industry portfolio, which was originally slated to be given to a Likud member, was promised to Labor under the coalition deal.

At least seven of the 13 Labor MKs voted into Knesset in the last elections opposed the move to join Netanyahu’s coalition, and may now split from the party. This could mean that the deal applies to a mere 6 MKs who will be bound to the agreement.

Netanyahu has already handed out 14 ministerial positions in coalition agreements with Shas and Labor. Two additional portfolios have been reserved for United Torah Judaism and Habayit Hayehudi, both small religious parties.

Only a few ministerial posts remain in the hands of Likud - the finance portfolio, which Netanyahu coveted for himself but will likely have to relinquish, transportation minister, education minister, which is reserved for MK Gideon Sa’ar, environment protection minister, communications minister and minister of the Negev and Galilee regions.

These portfolios will have to be divided among 11 ministers, which means that between four and five Likud ministers will have no portfolio, including possibly Benny Begin and Moshe Ya’alon, both of whom were recruited by Netanyahu to add star power to his party.

The Likud officials remarked that “the atmosphere in the Likud is tough. The potential ministers are tense, and aren’t opening their mouths for fear of harming their appointments. What will Bibi [Netanyahu] do, divide the Negev and Galilee portfolio between two ministers?”



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