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Begin Unlikely to Act Against Weizman for Criticism of Cabinet Decision

Premier Menachem Begin is unlikely to demand Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s resignation over the harsh criticism Weizman reportedly aired following Sunday’s Cabinet decision on a reply to the U.S. questions on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Close aides of the Premier said they believed Weizman himself already regretted his hot tempered remarks. They predicted that Begin would let the atmosphere cool off of its own accord, provided Weizman refrained from making similar comments in the future.

Meanwhile, Weizman has denied the most severe of the statements attributed to him–that Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan “have been lying to us for months….They are leading us into war instead of grabbing the opportunity for peace.” The remark was reported in Davar yesterday. It was denied 15 hours later by Herut Knesset faction Whip and Weizman-supporter Haim Kauffman in Weizman’s name. This morning, the Cabinet Secretary issued a second denial, also on behalf of Weizman. That denial referred specifically to the Davar story and not to other press reports attributing to Weizman a warning that the Cabinet majority policy would lead to deadlock, and that Dayan was “leading the ministers by the nose these past seven months.”

BOTH WANT TO AVOID CONFRONTATION

Several Likud ministers and Knesset members have appealed to Begin to take action against Weizman, terming the Defense Minister’s reported remarks intolerable. But Begin’s close confidants are certain that the Premier prefers not to engage in a bitter ouster effort against the popular Weizman.

What seems more likely, however, is that Begin will take Weizman at his word when the Defense Minister says–as he has reportedly said several times since Sunday–that he will henceforth concentrate on his ministry and defense affairs and not involve himself in the peace process. The Premier will, it has been hinted here, comply with Weizman’s expressed desire and not involve him as much as previously in the negotiations with the U.S. and Egypt.

It remains to be seen how Weizman would react to that kind of “freeze-out”–and whether, indeed, he was serious when he “threatened” to confine himself to the affairs of his own ministry. In political lobbies the question is still being asked: “What happens next? When will the next Weizman eruption take place?” But apparently Weizman’s close friends and advisors are counseling him to button up his mouth and bide his time now, for fear of overdoing his criticism and forcing Begin towards an all-out confrontation with him.

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