Meir Sheetrit to serve as second minister at treasury
Netanyahu to appoint MK Yuval Stenitiz as deputy; PM: Economy is first priority; Sharansky, Merdior, NRP ministers to be sworn in Mon.
Minister without Portfolio Meir Sheetrit will serve as a second minister at the treasury, under new Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu will head the socio-economic cabinet and will be responsible for negotiations with the United States on aid and loan guarantees.
Sheetrit served as justice minister in the previous Knesset, but was ousted in favor of Yosef "Tommy" Lapid, chairman of the Likud's new coalition partner, Shinui.
In an unprecedented move, Netanyahu plans to establish a large administrative body at the treasury, including the second minister and a deputy minister - a position to which he intends to appoint another one of his close supporters, MK Yuval Steinitz.
If legal problems arise regarding Sheetrit's appointment, he will serve as minister without portfolio at the Prime Minister's Office, but will only work for the treasury.
During a partial presentation of his new ministerial line-up Thursday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the Knesset plenum that the new government's first order of business would be to heal Israel's ailing economy. Tackling the country's economic woes, he said, would require "hard decisions."
The newly appointed finance minister intends to meet with Bank of Israel Governor David Klein early next week in order to begin a new era in relations between the treasury and the governor. Netanyahu will propose that he and Klein hold regular weekly meetings.
Netanyahu also intends to meet soon with the heads of the tax establishment in order to speed up tax reforms.
Netanyahu's close associates said Thursday that he is considering sending treasury director-general Ohad Marani to Washington next week to advance the issue of U.S. aid and loan guarantees.
Histadrut labor federation Chairman MK Amir Peretz (One Nation) urged Netanyahu on Thursday to formulate a join economic package of the government, Histadrut, private employers and the Bank of Israel in order to decrease unemployment, curb inflation and protect workers' rights.
The Knesset approved Sharon's new government in a vote of 66-48 shortly after midnight Thursday.
After the vote, Sharon was sworn in, followed by 19 of the 23 ministers in his government. The National Religious Party ministers will be sworn in on Monday, after the party has approved the ministerial appointments of Effi Eitam and Zevulun Orlev. MK Yitzhak Levi said Thursday that he will not compete for position of Welfare Minister against Orlev.
Eliyahu Gabai, seventh on the NRP's Knesset candidate list said Friday that he will compete for the Welfare Ministry post against Orlev. He also demanded that NRP ministers Effi Eitam and Orlev resign as MKs to enable the next in line on the Knesset list to serve as MKs.
Yisrael B'Aliyah leader Natan Sharansky, who joined up with the Likud in the aftermath of the election, will also be sworn in Monday as minister without portfolio, with responsibility for Jerusalem and Diaspora relations. Sharansky's swearing-in was delayed for procedural reasons, after the opposition argued that the coalition agreement between the Likud and Yisrael B'Aliyah had not been presented to the Knesset.
Dan Meridor will also be sworn in on Monday into the cabinet, after the Knesset approved Sharon's request to expand the number of ministers in the government.