The new cabinet / Tears of joy, anger and sour grapes in the Knesset
Where did the deputy ministers go? Particularly conspicuous by his absence from the plenum session that approved the new ministers was Deputy Knesset Speaker Majalli Whbee (Kadima). "He's angry. There are no deputies," explained a colleague. The colleague was referring to a proposal to have the prime minister appoint five new deputy ministers, so no Kadima MKs would be left unhappy. The idea was apparently shelved due to fear of public criticism. But Shas faction chairman Yakov Margi warned: "It will happen next week."
Public happiness. "The prime minister indeed raised the nation's satisfaction level," said MK Michael Eitan (Likud). "Roni Bar-On became finance minister, so he's smiling. MK Ruhama Avraham became a minister, so she's happy. Meir Sheetrit became interior minister instead of housing minister ... They're all so happy. Joy and gladness. But what does the state get out of it?"
On the tip of his tongue. Vice Premier Haim Ramon's popularity in the Knesset was once again evident yesterday: During the debate on his appointment, not a single MK mentioned the kiss of which he was convicted. Only when Ramon was sworn in was MK Zvi Hendel (National Union) unable to restrain himself. "With that same tongue he is taking the oath of loyalty?" demanded Hendel. "What a smooth tongue. He will handle [Foreign Minister] Tzipi Livni; he's an expert at handling women."
Musical chairs. Since no one spoke against Ramon, most of the opposition's fire was aimed at the unnecessary cabinet reshuffle. "I don't understand why, when they appoint one minister, they have to switch four others," said Haim Oron (Meretz).
"What's the difference between housing minister and interior minister?" added Eitan. "Does it justify such confusion in the country?"
The Bedouin can wait. The individual who absorbed the most criticism was Sheetrit, who had planned a major reform in the state's treatment of the Bedouin, but is now abandoning it in favor of the Interior Ministry. During Sheetrit's tenure as housing minister, said MK Talab El-Sana (Ra'am-Ta'al), there was, for the first time, a feeling "that there was a desire to solve the problem of the unrecognized villages. Now, it's all been halted."
"What happened to the grand plans for the Bedouin population?" chimed in MK Hanna Swaid (Hadash).
"The Bedouin can wait," responded Oron.
The minister from the transit camp. Yesterday's human-interest story was undoubtedly the new minister in charge of cabinet-Knesset liaison, Ruhama Avraham.
For months, Avraham has been telling anyone who would listen: "Nothing is certain until I'm sworn in."
Yesterday, the woman born in an immigrant transit camp, who became the prime minister's secretary and, now, a minister, took her oath of office. And as she did, her voice was choked with tears.