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Finance minister summons emergency gov't meeting over budget

Relations between Shalom and PM Sharon have reached all-time low, say Jerusalem sources

Finance Minister Silvan Shalom has summoned an emergency meeting of top government officials for Monday afternoon to discuss the budget.

His summons came after the Knesset speaker and committee chiefs decided to split up the Economic Arrangements Law instead of passing it as a single law. They also seek to reopen debate over partisan bills that Shalom says should be abolished or postponed, because Israel cannot feasibly afford to implement them.

Shalom is meeting with the prime minister, foreign minister, Knesset speaker and chairman of the House Committee and the Finance Committee after the Knesset speaker decided against passing the Economic Arrangements Law as a single entity.

As a single entity the Economic Arrangements Law would have been handled by the Finance Committee. The Knesset speaker decided that its various component sub-bills should be handled by the relevant Knesset committees.

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Shalom slammed the coalition and Knesset leaders for failing to understand the true gravity of Israel's economic situation. By their behavior they force the government to exceed its budget next year, Shalom said, which would render the government unable to implement its plans, including investment in infrastructure.

Jerusalem circles say that relations between the prime minister and finance minister have reached an all-time low. Shalom might even threaten to resign unless his demands are met, the sources say.