Rabin’s Government Balloons As Deputy Ministers Are Appointed

Yitzhak Rabin’s relatively compact and streamlined government of 17 ministers has suddenly ballooned, with the appointment over this past week of 12 deputy ministers.

For the first time in 19 years, the list included two Arabs, Nawaf Massalha of Labor and Walid Tzadik of Meretz. The rank of deputy minister is the highest official post ever held by Arabs in Israel.

This brings to 29 the number of office-holders in the Rabin administration — out of 62 members of the coalition. The number of office-holders is sure to expand if the premier succeeds in wooing the Agudat Yisrael faction of United Torah Judaism into his coalition. That party would likely demand two deputy minister appointments, including stewardship over the still-vacant Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare.

The Cabinet was reportedly unenthusiastic, even embarrassed, when Rabin presented his proposal at its weekly Sunday meeting.

The ministers have not forgotten that when most of them sat in the opposition before the election, they had vociferously criticized the large number of officeholders in the previous government: 33 of the 66 Knesset members in the Likudled coalition served as ministers or deputy ministers.

The present administration has yet to reach those proportions, but its earlier pledges of a streamlined government are ringing hollow.

A deputy minister does not cost the tax-payers as much as a full ministerial appointment. But despite the smaller staff and the smaller car assigned to the deputy minister, the perks of the office are seen as overly luxurious by many Israelis. The image projected by this wave of appointments is plainly not one Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin prefers.

As Rabin himself noted briefly, the appointments were the result of coalition and political agreements.

OPPOSITION WITHIN CABINET

Opposition to the move within the Cabinet was registered by the abstention of three ministers from the vote. The Meretz bloc’s Amnon Rubinstein and Labor’s David Libai, both staunch advocates of electoral reform, said they opposed this swelling of government ranks. Labor Party member Yisrael Kessar’s protest was more specific: He had wanted Knesset Member Ra’anan Cohen as his deputy minister of transport, but Rabin refused.

Another disappointed Laborite was Efraim Sneh. He had been expected to be named a deputy minister in the prime minister’s office with responsibility for coordinating Israel’s efforts in the peace process. But Rabin called him in on Saturday to explain that there were just too many appointments to be made and he would have to forgo the position at this time.

The appointments do not need the approval of the Knesset. But the Likud opposition lost no time in collecting signatures to convene a “special and urgent” debate Monday in the Knesset, which has otherwise recessed until after the holidays in October. The Likud leaders cited Labor’s promise that governmental “norms will change” in the wake of the June elections.

The following is the list of deputy ministers:

From Labor: Mordechai Gur, Defense; Yossi Beilin, Foreign Affairs; Micha Goldman, Education (overseeing sports); Nawaf Massalha, Health; Nissim Zvilli, Finance; Masha Lubelsky, Commerce and Industry; Eli Ben-Menahem, Prime Minister’s Office (dealing with low-income neighborhoods).

From the left-wing Meretz bloc: Ran Cohen, Housing; Walid Tzadik, Prime Minister’s Office.

From the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas Party: Rafael Pinhasi, Finance; Moshe Maiya, Education; Arieh Gamliel, Housing.

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