JERUSALEM (Nov. 8)
The functions and responsibilities of second Deputy Premier Simcha Ehrlich were spelled out in a letter to him from Premier Menachem Begin which was made public immediately after the former Finance Minister assumed his new office yesterday. He will follow up on all Cabinet decisions; will maintain liaison with Jewish communities in the diaspora; and will implement government policy toward Israeli Arabs.
Observers believe, however, that Ehrlich’s real function will be to hold together the various feuding elements in Begin’s coalition. Shimon Peres, leader of the opposition Labor Party, referred disparagingly to Ehrlich during the Knesset debate on the Cabinet’s reorganization as “the coalition plumber.” But Ehrlich ignored such barbs.
Talking to reporters last night he seemed to be relieved by his release from stewardship of Israel’s troubled economy which had brought him under fire from opposition and coalition circles alike, including his own Liberal Party. He noted that he will become chairman of various ministerial committees, including one for releations with the European Common Market countries and another dealing with Galilee where the bulk of Israel’s Arab population resides. He said that these areas of responsibility were “just a start” and that the Cabinet reshuffle that installed Yigal Hurwitz as the new Finance Minister was just the first step of a more wide-ranging government reorganization.