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Attorney General Says Further Delay by Begin in Submitting Formal Resignation Could Be an Inpropriet

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Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir issued a legal opinion last night indicating that further delay by Premier Menachem Begin in submitting his formal resignation could constitute an impropriety.

But Zamir made it clear that the two weeks which have elapsed since Begin announced his intention to resign are a “reasonable” and “acceptable” period under the law which provides for a two-step procedure when a Prime Minister resigns. His opinion was a rebuttal to some legal experts who have accused Begin of offending the letter and spirit of the law by not formalizing his resignation sooner.

Zamir explained that the law requires a Prime Minister to announce his intentions and then submit a formal letter of resignation to the President. The “reasonable” and “acceptable” interim between these steps varies according to specific instances and circumstances, the Attorney General said. The purpose is to allow time for the Premier to be dissuaded and for inter-party consultations inasmuch as his resignation automatically brings down his government.

Zamir suggested that a period of “about two weeks” for this procedure could be considered “reasonable” but delay beyond that linked to political consultations would be excessive and would vitiate the effect of the Premier’s original announcement or render it in operative. In that case, the process would have to begin again with a new announcement of intention.

Zamir’s opinion, requested by Deputy Premier David Levy, appeared to put Begin on notice that he must present his formal letter of resignation to President Chaim Herzog within the next day or so. But there is a growing belief in Israel that Begin’s inaction is no longer due to political considerations but to his ill health.

SHAMIR, ARENS HANDLING DAILY MATTERS

The precise nature of Begin’s illness is not known. He has been confined to his home for seven consecutive days. He delegated Levy to chair the weekly Cabinet meeting last Sunday but has not asked the Deputy Premier to fill in on other matters.

He is reportedly keeping abreast of developments while at home. It is understood, however, that Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens are handling day-to-day matters — primarily the crisis in Lebanon — without disturbing Begin for frequent consultations.

Shamir, elected to succeed Begin as leader of Likud has obtained the agreement of the coalition parties to support him to form a new government as soon as Begin’s resignation is in hand. Sources said today that Begin has delayed his visit to Herzog because he does not feel well enough to face the massive media attention that would follow his formal act of resignation.

Under the law, he could submit his letter by messenger but Begin is said to feel that would be an unseemly breach of the dignity of his office. Sources close to Begin say he hopes that rest at home will strengthen him sufficiently to present his resignation in person.

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