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Cohen-orgad Wins Cabinet, Knesset Approval As the New Finance Minister

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Yigal Cohen-Orgad was sworn in as Finance Minister today after winning the Cabinet’s unanimous endorsement and Knesset approval by a vote of 60-48 of his appointment by Premier Yitzhak Shamir.

He is the 10th Finance Minister since the State was founded and takes office in the midst of its worst economic crisis. He reportedly told Shamir, before his appointment was officially announced, that his first task would be to restore public trust in the Israeli economy.

Cohen-Orgad, a 46-year-old Herut hawk, replaces Yoram Aridor who resigned last Thursday under heavy fire from Likud colleagues and the opposition for his economic policies. Cohen-Orgad’s economic policies, whatever they are, have yet to become an issue. But his selection by Shamir for a senior Cabinet post threatened to raise a political storm in Likud’s Liberal Party wing which had expected the Treasury portfolio.

The Liberal Party’s problem was its inability to agree on a candidate. Both Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai and Minister of Commerce Industry Gideon Patt aspired to be Finance Minister and each threatened an internal crisis if the other was nominated. A Herut leader, Deputy Premier David Levy, flatly rejected the job when it was offered to him last week.

SHAMIR THREATENED TO RESIGN

Shamir reportedly told a Liberal Party deputation yesterday that he had run out of patience and decided to appoint Cohen-Orgad. “My decision is final and irreversible,” he was quoted as saying.

Liberal threats to oppose Cohen-Orgad in the Cabinet and Knesset evaporated quickly when Shamir reportedly told them that if they did, he would immediately hand in his resignation. That would have meant early elections which Likud and its coalition partners are determined to avoid. (See analysis, P. 4.)

Shamir is considered likely to compensate the Liberals if only to keep the peace within Likud. There was speculation today that Modai will be appointed Deputy Premier and Levy would be made Foreign Minister, the portfolio Shamir retains. The Housing Ministry, which Levy presently heads, was expected to go either to Levy’s deputy, Moshe Katzav or to Michael Dekel, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

But Liberal Party sources have already indicated they would not be satisfied with this arrangement, Modai has made it clear that he wants to be Foreign Minister and Knesset Speaker Menahem Savidor said today that he, too, considers himself a candidate for that office.

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