Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Israeli Coalition Talks--The Posturing Begins

The Jerusalem Post reports on the posturing by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the head of the Kadima (Forward) Party, and Amir Peretz, the head of the Labor Party, as they head into coalition talks. Folks, this may be too esoteric for some of you, but for the true connoisseur of parliamentary politics, this stuff is fascinating.

The negotiations will be over two types of political currency: (1) Cabinet positions (sometimes described as "ministries" or "portfolios"; and (2) policy. It appears that the mostly hotly contested portfolio will be the Treasury Minister. Labor will look for support against the more conservative economic positions of Kadima by trying to align itself with the Pensioners Party and the two Hareidi (fervently religious Orthodox Jewish) parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism. The latter two parties are natural allies of Labor, because their voters include many working poor and impoverished Torah scholars with large families. Kadima will counter by threatening to leave Labor out of the coalition entirely by bringing in a center-right party, Israel Beiteinu (Israel Our Home).

Here is a brief excerpt of how the Jerusalem Post described the action:

Olmert will begin holding personal meetings with the heads of the parties on Sunday. Peretz is expected to tell Olmert that in addition to the Treasury, a "social bloc" of Labor, Shas and the Gil Pensioners' Party would demand the socioeconomic ministries: Education, Industry, Trade and Labor, Social Affairs and Interior.
Kadima's first goal in the talks will be to lower Labor's asking price. Olmert's associates acknowledged that because Kadima won only 28 seats, the party might have to give Labor one or even two of the top four portfolios of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Finance and Education. But they said the Treasury was off limits in coalition talks, especially with regard to Labor chairman Amir Peretz.
"There is a limit to what the economy can tolerate," an Olmert associate said. "Peretz has a history of paralyzing the economy with strikes, so if he were appointed, the stock market would collapse. He can't be finance minister for the same reason that [Israel Beiteinu head] Avigdor Lieberman cannot be defense minister."

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