Olmert sweetens the pie to keep miffed coalition partner from bolting

Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday, Oct. 25, and decided to keep his dovish party in the government, despite misgivings over the decision to add Avigdor Lieberman’s hawkish Israel Beiteinu party to the coalition.
Olmert reportedly promised Peretz, who is also the defense minister, that he will be in charge of the government’s policy regarding Israeli Arabs and that his colleague, Labor MK Ephraim Sneh, will be appointed deputy defense minister.
Earlier this week, Olmert invited Lieberman to join the government, together with his 11-member faction, in an effort to solidify his coalition by bringing it to a 78-MK majority in the 120-member Knesset. Lieberman was offered the position of vice premier and to be the minister in charge of strategic threats, including coordinating Israel’s policy toward the Iran threat.
Yossi Beilin, head of the left-wing Meretz party, scolded Labor, saying it had betrayed its principles by agreeing to sit in the same government with Lieberman, and that its historic purpose had come to an end. He called on disgruntled Labor MKs to join Meretz.
The Labor Party must approve Peretz’s decision. The proposed new coalition will also require Knesset approval.

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