JERUSALEM (Jun. 25)
Premier Menachem Begin’s senior aide, Mattityahu Shmuelevitz, has compiled a 13-page memorandum listing what the likud government considers its major achievements during its three years in office. He submitted the document to the Premier this week to mark the government’s third anniversary. Political observers saw it as Likud’s opening shot in the next election compaign. Given the government’s present shaky situation, no one can say when the campaign will formally begin or how long it will go on before it is declared official.
In a radio interview, Shmuelevitz, who is Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, faulted the media — especially the State-owned radio and television — for presenting a biased and negative picture of the government’s policies and actions.
In his document of achievements, Shmuelevitz cited the peace treaty with Egypt at the head of the list, followed immediately by the government’s “standing firm for our national rights and security interests.”
Other points in the list of achievements include: strengthening Israel’s Defense Force; a successful war against terrorism, including constant assaults on terrorists at their bases; a “significant improvement” in aliya. In 1977 the aliya figure was 21, 429, in 1979 it was 37,000; improved aliya absorption services and facilities; and significant progress in solving the housing problems of the poorest segments of society. In1976 some 36 percent of Israeli families lived in conditions of three or more to a room — by 1979 the figure was only 1.5 percent of the families social Legislation under Likud which included such measures as the minimum wage law and the free high school education law.
PERES SCORNFUL OF LIKUD CLAIMS
Shimon Peres, chairman of the opposition Labor Party, reacted scornfully to Shmuelevitz’s catalogue. “He forgot to mention that this government succeeded in putting Israel in first place worldwide in national inflation, “Peres remarked. Similarly, the Labor leader said, the list did not mention the foreign policy dead-end into which the Begin government had led the nation, nor the “fact that the social gap is now deeper than it ever was.”
One lengthy section of Shmuelevitz’s document is headlined “On the Way to Economic Recovery.” It underscores the government’s achievements in cutting subsidies, cutting down the civil service, intensifying tax collection, abolishing currency restrictions, easing restrictions on personal imports, boosting exports and slashing imports, maintaining the real value of wages and at the same time keeping up full employment. There was also an increase in the number of tourists visiting Israel, the document noted.
Another section extols the government’s “settlement momentum,” which, it says, is unprecedented since the State was founded. One hundred and sixteen new settlements have been established during the past three years — 21 in Galilee, 10 in the Negev and Arava, another 28 “mizpim” (outpost settlements) in Galilee, and the rest on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The number of Jews living on the West Bank has risen since 1976 from 5000 to 13,000, Shmuelevitz noted.
The document coincided this week with abundant other signs of a heated-up political front. Labor and Herut spokesmen clashed sharply Sunday over the Premier’s call to the nation — in the wake of a proposal by Chief of Staff Gen. Raphael Eitan to the defense establishment — that everyone volunteer one day’s pay a month to the defense effort. Labor ridiculed the proposal, and challenged the government, to impose new taxes if it could not make ends meet. Herut Secretariat chairman MK Yoram Arido, retested that Labor’s attitude showed the party was still not ripe to return to office because it put its own party interests before those of the nation.
There were similar sharp exchanges over Labor MK and farmer Premier Yitzhak Rabin’s brief weekend visit to Vienna and three-hour discussion with Chancellor Bruno Kreisky. Herut lambasted Labor for its readiness to associate with statesmen who advocate recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Herut spokesmen linked Rabin’s trip to the “bitter feud” between him and Shimon Peres for the party leadership.
In the Cabinet Sunday, Begin warned his ministers that their failure to grapple with the present economic crisis would lead to a return to power of a party committed to “cede the heart of out country” to foreign rule. Begin has been using this characterization of Labor policy repeatedly in recent weeks in an apparent attempt to sharpen the public’s perception of the policy differences between his government and the main opposition party.