Tel Aviv (Jun. 14)
Likud leader Menachem Begin has raised the hackles of his prospective coalition partner, the National Religious Party, and has elicited no small amount of grumbling within his own faction by appointing veterans of the underground fighting group, Lehi, to key government and Knesset posts. His appointments are regarded by some of his own colleagues as arbitrary and authoritarian. Begin has defended them on grounds that he was selecting the best people for appropriate jobs.
The angriest protest came from the NRP after Begin announced yesterday that he was naming former Lehi member Geulah Cohen as Deputy Minister of Education and Culture. The Education Ministry has been assigned to the NRP’s Zevulun Hammer and the religious party was furious that it had not been consulted or even informed in advance of Begin’s intentions. Party secretary Tzvi Bernstein said it was “inconceivable” that such a decision could be made “without prior consultation with us.” He said this was a matter on which all parties to the coalition should have been consulted.
Hammer himself seemed appalled. “The appointment of Geulah Cohen was not coordinated with me. If I decide that I want a Deputy Minister, I’ll choose the personality I want,” he said. Hammer is believed to favor Likud MK Abraham Katz, education committee chairman in the old Knesset.
Cohen is regarded as a firebrand and was one of the most outspoken and vociferous opposition members in the last Knesset. She served Lehi as an underground radio announcer during the pre-State period, was imprisoned by the British and made a spectacular escape disguised as a Bedouin woman. Lehi, sometimes known as the Stern group, was, if anything, more extreme than the Irgun Zvai Leumi which was headed by Begin Some of Begin’s old Irgun colleagues have complained that relative newcomers like Cohen and another Lehi veteran, Itzhak Shamir, were getting key pasts. Shamir was elected Speaker of the ninth Knesset yesterday with unanimous Likud support.
Begin’s announcement last night that MK Chaim Korfu will be Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industry, irritated Yigal Hurwitz of Likud’s State List and the appointment was not finalized.
The only faction that seems satisfied is the ultra-Orthodox Agudat-Israel which has agreed to a parliamentary coalition with Likud while rejecting Cabinet posts. Begin disclosed last night that Likud would relinquish the chairmanships of the Knesset Finance and Welfare Committees and one of its deputy speakers’ posts to the Agudo as a reward for its supports. This too angered some members of Likud’s Herut wing who charged that Begin was depriving his own faction of important jobs. They are also complaining that senior Cabinet posts will be filled by Gen. Ariel Sharon and Gen. Ezer Weizman, relative newcomers to Likud ranks. Begin said that in order to achieve a Likud government, some members of his party had to sub-ordinate their own political aspirations.