JERUSALEM (Apr. 16)
Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai became Minister of Justice, and Justice Minister Moshe Nissim took over the Treasury in a switch of Cabinet portfolios approved by the Knesset Wednesday. The exchange was agreed to last weekend to save the Labor-Likud unity coalition government from collapse over Premier Shimon Peres decision to fire Modai for having criticized the government in recent press interviews.
With prior agreement between the coalition partners, Knesset approval was by acclamation. The key question that remains is whether Nissim will be able to handle the delicate task of running Israel’s precarious economy. He has freely admitted having neither experience nor expertise in the field of economics.
Economic analysts here assume that under the guidance of a competent Director General of the Finance Ministry in the person of Dr. Emanuel Sharon, the ministry will run smoothly. Nissim will have to rely on the ministry’s professional staff to a far greater degree than his predecessor. But in the long run, his performance in the unfamiliar post will depend on his working relations with Peres which in the past have been described as “very good.”
Modai, for his part, helped save the coalition by accepting a relatively minor portfolio in exchange for one of the most powerful, prestigious and highly visible ministerial positions in which he had achieved some degree of success.
His alternative was to leave the government in which case his Likud colleagues would have had no choice but to follow him. Had Peres fired Modai or forced him to resign he would have violated the coalition agreement and Likud could not have maintained its partnership with Labor in those circumstances.