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The former finance minister from the Labor Party, Avraham Shochat, says he "can understand Ehud Olmert's insistence on keeping the finance portfolio for Kadima."

Shochat told Haaretz yesterday that the treasury is the most important portfolio.

"The defense establishment can continue working even in the absence of a minister, but the economic establishment is totally dependent on the policy and presence of the finance minister," he said. "I imagine Olmert will fight for the portfolio with all his might, and he also has a candidate he trusts 100 percent - Abraham Hirchson."

As for Labor, Shochat, who retired from politics several months ago and went into business, recommends that Amir Peretz put in the government the two new politicians on his list - Avishay Braverman and Ami Ayalon - even if it means excluding Secretary General Eitan Cabel and Shalom Simhon.

Leaving Ayalon and Braverman out of the government "would cause tremendous damage to the party," Shochat said, "because these two are the pride of Labor and the ones who gave it its new color."