Three Kadima MKs Pursuing Vacant Coalition Chair Post

For the past three weeks, the Knesset has had no coalition chair, after MK Avigdor Itzchaky left while demanding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resign.

Three lawmakers are pursuing the job, one of the most powerful in the Knesset: Kadima MKs Yoel Hasson, Otniel Schneller and Ronit Tirosh.

In Kadima, the prime minister appoints the coalition chair. Olmert is waiting until after the Labor Party primaries tomorrow, and the cabinet shuffle that is expected to ensue.

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chair MK Tzachi Hanegbi told Olmert he would retain the position until the Labor primaries. If a chair is not appointed by then, he will transfer the position to Hasson, who is the coalition whip.

All three candidates lack one essential thing - parliamentary experience. However, almost all the Kadima MKs who do have parliamentary experience are serving as ministers or committee chairs.

Faction sources believe that Hasson and Schneller are in the lead for the post. Hasson told Haaretz he was "sure the prime minister would take into consideration the work I have done as a whip as well as the experience I brought with me from my previous position as advisor to prime minister Ariel Sharon." Hasson's main disadvantage is his age, 34, although he calls it an advantage.

Schneller, former chair of the Yesha Council of settlements, said, "If the prime minister and the faction approach me, I will seriously consider taking the post."

Tirosh said: "I certainly see myself moving ahead within the expected portfolio shuffle. I came from a very senior position, director general of the Education Ministry, the second largest ministry in the government."

However Tirosh added that she is "not hiding my desire to receive the education portfolio, if it becomes available."