The Pensioners Party has split and the breakaway members intend to form tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak's new Knesset faction, dubbed Justice for Pensioners. However, it is not clear how many of the party's seven MKs, if any, will follow MK Moshe Sharoni to form the new faction.
MK Elhanan Glazer, formerly one of the party's mavericks, decided not to quit Monday, after being promised a post of deputy minister.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised the Pensioners chairman, cabinet minister Rafi Eitan, to appoint Glazer a deputy minister in the Pensioners Affairs Ministry, thus preventing a split of a third of the party's Knesset faction.
Splitting with less than one third of the faction will not enable the new faction to receive the proportionate party funds, as the rebels and Gaydamak had been hoping.
So far Sharoni is the only Knesset member to inform Eitan officially of his decision to leave the party. MK Sara Marom-Shalev has not yet made up her mind and Eitan is still trying to persuade her to remain in the faction.
"I've reached a clear agreement with Olmert. Glazer will be my deputy in the ministry and deal with restoring Jewish property from East Europe," Eitan said Monday. "Sarah Marom-Shalev has not quit."
At lunchtime Monday, Sharoni managed to sign both Glazer and Marom-Shalev on a draft agreement to quit the Pensioners Party and form a new faction called Justice for Pensioners. This was the culmination of Sharoni's revenge against Eitan and other faction members who had ousted him from the faction leadership.
Glazer had realized that he could use the crisis in the Pensioners Party to get himself a promotion. Since his threat to quit, he has been wooed by the prime minister and his men, who acted to prevent the split that would have reduced Olmert's coalition to 64 MKs.
Glazer's departure seemed certain Monday, when he signed the draft agreement with Sharoni. Eitan contacted him immediately and told him of Olmert's promise to appoint him deputy minister.
"As far as I'm concerned you can start working tomorrow," Eitan told Glazer.
At the same time, faction chair MK Yitzhak Galanti was sent to calm Glazer down and tell him that contrary to rumors he would not prevent his new appointment.
Glazer said "I only signed a non-binding draft." He sent an official letter clarifying this to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik.
Sharoni fumed and threatened to sue Glazer for NIS 2 million for breach of promise. "I heard Sharoni threatened to sue Glazer. He apparently doesn't know that MKs have immunity," quipped Eitan.
Sharoni had been convinced that Glazer and Marom-Shalev would join him in forming the new faction. He had planned to run in the next election in Gaydamak's party.
Eitan believes that the Pensioners Party has stabilized its shaky position but the polls still predict the party's crash in the next elections.
Haaretz has learned that Gaydamak's party would change its name from Social Justice to Social Justice - Justice for Pensioners and that the breakaway faction wold represent Gaydamak's party in the Knesset.
At this point, it appears that the new faction will be formed with or without Glazer and Marom-Shalev. However, if fewer than three MKs quit the mother faction, they would not be able to run for the next Knesset. To overcome this obstacle, the plan is for Sharoni to serve after the next elections as a minister for the joint list with Gaydamak, without being a Knesset member.
Gaydamak's aides confirmed that the negotiations with the breakaway Pensioners are in advanced stages.
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