Reichman: Sharon, Olmert Promised I'd Get Education Ministry

Shinui members are hoping party founder Reichman will return from Kadima in light of Lapid's expected departure.

Kadima member Professor Uriel Reichman told reporters over the weekend that he had been promised the post of education minister by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had since reiterated this pledge.

"I joined Kadima to serve as education minister. I will not be a Knesset member or any other minister," Reichman, a founder member of the Shinui party, told education correspondents.

Reichman told the reporters that he supported the Dovrat report, which calls for sweeping reforms in the education system, with a few reservations, such as supporting extended authority to school principals. He added that he intends to change the system in which teachers are trained, and that school teachers will have to hold academic degrees in at least one subject.

Meanwhile, support is growing in Shinui for Reichman to return as party leader, in light of the expected departure of current party chairman Yosef Lapid.

An appeal has also been made to Yaakov Kedmi, in hopes of winning the Russian immigrant vote.

In May 2004, Reichman was chosen to head the Shinui presidium. At first, he and Lapid were in sync, but bitter disagreements soon arose over issues such as opening up the party to additional target groups. Reichman left Shinui for Kadima about two months ago, after which Sharon presented him as the party's candidate for education minister.

Now, however, several members of the party's governing council are hoping that Reichman will return and save them from crashing and burning at the polls.

Eeki Eilner, a confidant of Reichman and ideological compatriot of Ron Levinthal, is likely to play a major role in wooing back Reichman, who is president of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. Eilner claims that no formal invitation has been extended to Reichman yet, but he can probably save himself the trouble.

"Someone has already asked me to come back and lead Shinui," Reichman said Saturday. "I made it clear to everyone that I gave my word to Sharon to be education minister, and I will not deviate from my path."

Eilner met with Kedmi last Thursday, with Levinthal's knowledge, to discuss the possibility of Kedmi's being placed at the top of Shinui's list. Levinthal and his colleagues, who over the weekend were dealing with public opinion polls that predicted Shinui's erasure from the country's political map, may be hoping that immigrant voters will save the day. Kedmi, who is very familiar to the Russian community, might increase Shinui's popularity with this group if he joins. On Friday, Kedmi told Haaretz that "nothing is final."

The Shinui council will convene on Thursday. If Lapid does not announce his departure then Levinthal and Eilner are likely to call on him to leave. Last Friday afternoon Shinui Youth members demonstrated in front of Lapid's home, under the slogan, "Do you want us to grow old before you decide?"

Meanwhile, ex-Shinui MKs are still looking for an existing but nonviable party that they can commandeer. On Friday, Shinui MKs Avraham Poraz, Melli Polishuk-Block and Eti Livni met with social scientist Dr. Esther Herzog and attorney Yona Markowitz, who once ran for Knesset on the Yesh (Equal Representation for Women and Minorities) list.