Pensioners Leader Denies Deal With Likud

Pensioners Party chairman Rafi Eitan denied yesterday that he had signed an agreement with Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu before the recent elections.

He was responding to a report in Maariv which claimed that in exchange for the Pensioners foiling Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni's bid to form a government four months ago, Eitan would be minister for pensioner affairs in a future Netanyahu-led government. This would happen regardless of whether the Pensioners made it into the Knesset in this month's elections.

"The one thing that was said in our conversations - and I received a negative reply to it - was that I wanted the Pensioner Affairs Ministry to be preserved," Eitan said in an interview with Army Radio. "With respect to me personally, nothing was said, and I am willing to go out into the wide world. I have a lot to do there."

Eitan claimed that Netanyahu "proposed that I move to Likud as a unit with several [other] Knesset members and receive reserved slots in Likud for the coming elections, but I refused. I said then, and I still say today: If the pensioners think it is to their benefit to have a sectoral pensioners party, they should establish a sectoral party. And if they think there is no such need - that is entirely their loss."

Eitan did tell the radio, however, that he intended to keep the Pensioners Party in existence. "I assume it will move to [include] additional people, but I will preserve it for the next election," he said.