JERUSALEM (Nov. 17)
Premier Yitzhak Rabin is about to undertake a major reshuffling of his government and Cabinet ministers likely to be affected are raising objections. Although rumors have been flying for weeks, the public got its first official indication that changes were on the way from yesterday’s Cabinet communique that said the ministers did not have time at this week’s session to discuss the “reorganization of government.”
The reorganization is expected to include changes recommended by the special ministerial committee on government efficiency, headed by Independent Liberal Party leader Gideon Hausner. The committee’s proposals for streamlining the government in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War was shelved for almost a year. It has been revived of late, mainly because Rabin believes the time has come to set up a new team of his own men and for internal coalition reasons.
According to unconfirmed reports, the Labor Ministry will be abolished and many of its functions, including national insurance, would be absorbed by an expanded Ministry of Social Benefit that would replace the present Welfare Ministry. Other Labor Ministry functions would be assigned to the Housing and Education ministries.
Labor Minister Moshe Baram of the Labor Alignment has objected vigorously, especially since he would be shunted to the less prestigious Communications Ministry, regarded as a junior portfolio, which is presently held on a temporary basis by Minister of Agriculture Aharon Uzan.
NEW MINISTRY MAY GO TO SHEMTOV
Zevulun Hammer of the National Religious Party who is currently Minister of Welfare, said he had no objections to the expansion of his ministry provided that it remains an NRP fiefdom. But Rabin reportedly plans to assign the new Ministry of Social Benefit to Mapam’s Victor Shemtov, the current Minister of Health. Hammer would get the Health portfolio in exchange.
Political pundits believe Rabin wants to mollify Mapam with the new welfare post because he intends to abolish the Ministry of Absorption, currently held by Mapam. That ministry was established after the Six-Day War when immigration increased dramatically. But Yosef Almogi, the Labor Party’s candidate for chairmanship of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization Executives, has demanded abolition of the Absorption Ministry and restoration of its functions to the Jewish Agency’s Immigration and Absorption Department.
RABINOWITZ MAY GO, TOO
Meanwhile, according to persistent rumors, Rabin wants to remove Yehoshua Rabinowitz as Finance Minister and replace him with Yaacov Levinson, head of the Bank Hapoalim. Rabinowitz has come under mounting criticism for not taking sufficiently decisive measures to alleviate Israel’s economic crisis, especially the country’s declining foreign currency reserves and lag in exports, Rabinowitz has argued that more severe measures would lead to widespread unemployment.
In an unrelated development, Menachem Porush a veteran MK of the ultra-Orthodox Aguda Israel faction, announced yesterday that he would relinquish his Knesset seat in favor of another Aguda politician, Rabbi Shlomo Gross, Porush was acting in obedience to the Aguda’s “Council of Sages” which ordered him to step down in favor of Gross.