Yisrael Beiteinu Chief Still Holds Out Hope for Public Security Post

Yisrael Beiteinu chair Avigdor Lieberman is again insisting that a member of his party receive the public security portfolio. This is first on the list of demands he presented yesterday to Kadima.

The demand is not only a tactical measure, but also a response to increasing pressure from inside the party over negotiations with Kadima. Talks between the two parties are expected to continue today.

At a Jerusalem press conference yesterday, Lieberman emphasized that if some feel it is inappropriate to appoint him to the position, there are two other party members with defense backgrounds - former Shin Bet security services deputy chief Israel Hasson and former deputy police chief Yitzhak Aharonovich - who are no less qualified than Kadima MK Avi Dichter.

Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's statements that he would give the portfolio to Lieberman - before Attorney General Menachem Mazuz disqualified the latter - were a gimmick, party members said. Olmert said he would not give the public security portfolio to anyone else in Yisrael Beiteinu.

The party is demanding a cabinet position that is no less senior.

Nonetheless, Lieberman emphasized his desire to join the government. Lieberman suggested the clause in the government guidelines about a future evacuation, which is problematic for Yisrael Beiteinu, not be binding for the party. However, Lieberman believes that "Kadima will not evacuate even one settlement for financial and security reasons."

"The ball is in Kadima's court," he said. "It is impossible to disqualify an entire movement."