JERUSALEM (Feb. 23)
The Knesset voted 61-51 today to approve the appointment of Moshe Arens as Minister of Defense, succeeding Ariel Sharon who was forced to resign. Arens, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., is expected to return from Washington at the end of the week.
The debate today focussed less on Arens than on the man he will replace. Labor Alignment MK Haim Barlev warned that the Likud government would live to regret its decision to allow Sharon to remain in the Cabinet and on two key committees — the Ministerial Defense Committee and the Steering Committee for negotiations with Lebanon.
“When Arens enters the Cabinet and the Defense Ministry, he will have Sharon breathing down his neck on one side and from the other side a Premier who came out as he did from the Kahan report,” Barlev said.
He was referring to the report of the commission of inquiry into the Beirut refugee camps massacre, headed by Justice Yitzhak Kahan, President of the Supreme Court, which called for Sharon’s dismissal and faulted Begin for distancing himself from the events in Beirut, though it did not recommend that he resign.
SAYS HARDLINE POLICIES WILL REMAIN
Barlev conceded that Arens’ appointment would bring a “more balanced, more humane person” into the Defense Ministry. But it would not change the Likud government’s hardline policies, he said.
Victor Shemtov of Mapam said Sharon left Israel to deal with a series of crises in the Middle East and the danger of a new confrontation with Syria. He was also critical of a statement by Arens yesterday that Israel should consider preemptive bombing of Soviet SAM-5 missiles reportedly deployed in Syria.
Likud MK Ariel Weinstein defended the retention of Sharon in the Cabinet and on two of its most important committees. He said there was no reason to fear that the Israel army would get orders from any civilian elements apart from the Defense Ministry.
ROSENNE’S CAREER IN THE DIPLOMATIC SERVICE
Israel Radio reported today that Arens will be replaced in Washington by veteran diplomat Meir Rosenne, currently Israel’s Ambassador to France. Rosenne served as legal advisor to the Israeli delegation at the Camp David negotiations in 1978. By sending him to Washington, Begin would demonstrate the importance Israel attaches to the Camp David accords observers here said.
Rosenne was born in lasi, Rumania, in 1931. A lawyer by profession, he received his PhD in international law at the Sorbonne in 1957. A veteran in the Foreign Ministry, he was Consul General in New York City from 1961 to 1967, was a member of the Israel Embassy in Paris from 1957 to 1960, and served on various United Nations committees as Israel’s delegate.
Rosenne was also a senior lecturer of international law at the Hebrew University, served as a legal advisor in the Foreign Ministry during which time he assisted the Israeli delegation at Camp David, and three years ago was appointed Ambassador to France. He is married and is the father of two daughters.