August 7, 2005

Sharon names deputy Ehud Olmert as finance minister

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
appointed his deputy, Ehud Olmert, as finance minister to
replace Benjamin Netanyahu, who quit as the cabinet approved
the first phase of Israel's evacuation of the occupied Gaza

"The prime minister told Minister Olmert to continue the
fiscal policy and bring the state budget for government
approval on Tuesday as planned," Sharon's office said in a
statement released on Sunday.

The resignation of Netanyahu, Sharon's main rival in the
right-wing Likud party, sent local markets reeling and showed
the depth of division in the cabinet over the plan for
"disengagement" from conflict with the Palestinians.

But the departure of the highest-ranking minister yet to go
over the pullout was too late to prevent approval for the
forced evacuations of settlers from Gaza, due to start after
Aug. 15.

Olmert, 59, has been in the Israeli government since 2003
and is Israel's Vice Prime Minister. He became Sharon's
closest, most outspoken Likud ally as he maneuvered to overcome
internal mutiny over the Gaza pullout plan.

Olmert, a Likud moderate, often locked horns with Likud
hard-liners like Netanyahu and gained a reputation for floating
vaguely dovish ideas on defusing conflict with the
Palestinians, such as a more significant pullout in the West