Likud Fumes Silently, So Far, Over Lack of Jobs in Huge Cabinet

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is ready to announce one of the biggest governments in Israel's history next week, probably on Tuesday. However, senior Likud figures are reportedly furious with Netanyahu for leaving only six portfolios available for the party's 11 ministerial candidates.

So far Likud MKs are refraining from speaking out against Netanyahu, but some of them reportedly have threatened to make Netanyahu's life "difficult" after the portfolio distribution should they find they have been left out.

The large cabinet - 27 ministers and six deputy ministers - is the price of the generous coalition agreement Netanyahu made with Yisrael Beiteinu and Labor.

Netanyahu and his aides are trying to find ways of compensating senior party MKs for the lack of portfolios to avert an open revolt or a crisis in Likud. Among other possibilities he is considering splitting the Science, Culture and Sports Ministry into two, giving Science to Habayit Hayehudi and Culture and Sports to Likud. He is also considering setting up a new ministry - for Economic Peace. But he is still short of portfolios.

Likud figures have been pressuring Netanyahu to give the treasury, which he intended to keep for himself, to a Likud man.

Netanyahu is not keen on giving this portfolio to Silvan Shalom, who is believed to be Netanyahu's biggest problem; the prime minister-designate promised him the most senior Likud portfolio during the election campaign. Shalom is keeping quiet and waiting to see what Netanyahu will offer him.

Other candidates being considered for finance minister are Dan Meridor and MK Yisrael Katz.

Senior Likud sources say that after Netanyahu gave the Defense Ministry to Labor, it is unthinkable that none of the senior portfolios go to a Likud figure.

Netanyahu has even tried to persuade Yaakov Neeman to give up the Justice Ministry portfolio he promised him as part of the deal with Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, so that could go to a Likud man.

Netanyahu will allocate the Transportation, Communications, Environment, Negev and Galilee, Culture and Sports and Health portfolios among 10 senior Likud figures. At least three of them will probably have to make do with the post of minister-without-portfolio.

Netanyahu may also offer the post of vice premier and possibly the job of minister for strategic affairs to Dan Meridor and Moshe Ya'alon, who were promised senior posts.