Arutz Sheva News Service, Feb. 27, 2003 / Adar Aleph 25, 5763


The Knesset convened this afternoon for the presentation of the new government. Foreign Minister-designate Silvan Shalom opened by presenting changes in the government structure, such as the division of the Labor and Welfare Ministry into two, the disbanding of the Communications Ministry, and the like. Prime Minister Sharon's speech was frequently interrupted by hareidi-party MKs, and he said that he is still interested in a national unity government. He presented the guidelines of his new government, and was then followed by Opposition Leader and new MK Amram Mitzna. Mitzna blamed Sharon for the lack of a national unity government, and promised to "lead a responsible opposition."

The session afterwards is expected to last four hours, concluding with the swearing-in of the Likud, Shinui, and National Union government ministers. Those of the NRP will be sworn in on Monday, after the party chooses them. Effie Eitam is expected to be Housing Minister, and Rabbi Yitzchak Levy and Zevulun Orlev are contesting the Welfare Ministry portfolio.


Prime Minister Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu finalized the terms of the latter's appointment as Finance Minister early this afternoon. Sharon agreed to most of Netanyahu's terms, including full backing from the government, the authority to set the composition of the economic cabinet and to privatize government-owned companies, and the mandate to negotiate Israel's request for American loan guarantees. Sharon did not, however, grant Netanyahu the right to be Acting Prime Minister - a position he gave to Ehud Olmert instead. An Acting Prime Minister takes the place of the Prime Minister when the latter is out of the country or otherwise incapacitated, and can serve in this position for up to 100 days before another Minister-MK is chosen as Interim Prime Minister.

Olmert will be Minister of Industry and Trade, a portfolio that will include the Israel Lands Authority, and he will also be a member of the inner security mini-cabinet and of the negotiating team with the PA. Also within the Likud, Finance Minister Silvan Shalom will take over the Foreign Ministry, Tzachi HaNegbi will be Minister of Public Security, Tzippy Livny will be Minister of Immigrant Absorption, and Danny Naveh will serve as Health Minister. Uzi Landau and Meir Shitreet will be Ministers without Portfolio.

MK Ze'ev Boim, who served as Likud Knesset faction head in the previous Knesset, said today that the imbroglio into which Sharon fell regarding the ministerial appointments was caused by mistakes made in the Likud's coalition negotiations with Shinui.

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