Breakaway Pensioners MKs Revising Application to Split Party

The breakaway Pensioners Party MKs plan to strike problematic items from their agreement with millionaire businessman Arcadi Gaydamak over joining his new party and to resubmit to the Knesset their application for the Pensioners split. The media adviser of breakaway ringleader MK Moshe Sharoni announced the decision yesterday. Pensioners whip MK Itshac Galantee said he would ask the defectors to swear out a statement declaring they did not agree verbally to the paragraphs that will be removed from the contract with Gaydamak. Acting coalition chairman MK Yoel Hasson believes the group of defecting MKs will fall apart in the absence of a written agreement with the tycoon.

After about two hours of heated discussion of the issue by the Knesset House Committee earlier yesterday, Sharoni announced he was rescinding the application to divide the Pensioners and to form a new faction, Justice for Pensioners. His announcement prevented a vote on the issue.

The reversal came after Knesset Legal Adviser Nurit Elstein ruled that the House Committee had the right to reject the application to split the party, despite the opposition's assertion that the split was a technical measure only. "The House Committee is not a rubber stamp," Elstein said.

During the committee session, Sharoni said he would not be able to sit with his former party colleagues because "I want to throw up when I see them," while Galantee admitted that the party is in an "embarrassing state."

Meretz whip MK Zahava Gal-On said the new party would be "a branch of the underworld in the Knesset that's trying to buy MKs." Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich said that "the agreement is the most blatantly criminal deal I have ever seen. The government is being bought with money and MKs are being bought with money."

On the other hand, Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar said that preventing the split would set a dangerous precedent. "Tomorrow it could happen to any party. We are forcing Sharoni and Galantee together after one called the other Caligula and Ceausescu."