Mazal Mualem
Haaretz (Analysis)
March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

There is no debate over two of the achievements of the Labor-Likud coalition agreement that initialed on Tuesday morning: It was reached after negotiations unprecedented in their brevity ? taking less than 24 hours ? and it grants Labor a scandalous package of positions for its mere 13 Knesset seats, almost out of generosity. The deal gives the party five cabinet posts, including two of the most senior ? Defense Minister and Trade and Industry Minister - and another two deputy ministerial positions.

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's package of temptation for Labor was so bountiful that it is not clear whether the party will have enough people to man all the positions. Labor chairman Ehud Barak's camp, as of Tuesday morning, consisted of Ministers Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Shalom Simhon, Isaac Herzog and deputy ministers Matan Vilnai and Orit Noked. Vilnai will be upgraded to minister without portfolio and Noked will serve as a deputy minister.

The outstanding achievement of the deal itself is within the social-economic field, and was pushed for by Histadrut Labor Federation leader Ofer Eini. It is a sort of economic rescue plan ? as it will be marketed to the public and the party delegates at Tuesday evening's key central committee meeting.

It includes NIS 100 million for retraining people for different professions, NIS 200 million for funding day and afternoon care for working women's children, investment in factories and a commitment not to cut salaries in the public sector. Furthermore, the deal promises a gradual hike in benefits for pensioners over the coming three years totaling NIS 950 million (this subject actually appeared in a similar deal between Labor and Kadima last year that was never signed), and a series of other agreements. The deal's masterpiece is the creation of a forum that the government, employers and the Histadrut will all attend and will have the status of an advisor to the prime minister.

The question is, would Eini as Histadrut chairman against Netanyahu as prime minister have been able to reach such achievements on his own? This is open for debate. Eini is sure that were it not for Netanyahu's need for the Labor party, many elements of the emergency economic plan gained in the coalition deal would have disappeared.

In light of the achievements made in the social-economic part of the agreement, what is remarkable is the lack of vision and achievement in the diplomatic sphere, the key area traditionally promoted by the Labor party. The clauses are well formulated but lack any substance, to the point that Shas, Habayit hayehudi and Yisrael Beiteinu as well - the next government's right-wing - will also be able to live with them in peace and security.


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