Anger over Disposition of Cabinet Posts: Labor, Likud Committees to Vote on Unity Government; Peres
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Anger over Disposition of Cabinet Posts: Labor, Likud Committees to Vote on Unity Government; Peres

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The central committees of the Labor Party and Likud will vote early this week on the unity government agreed to by their respective party leaders. Despite anger over the disposition of Cabinet portfolios, especially in Labor ranks, they are expected to approve the broad based regime in time for Premier-designate Shimon Peres to present it to the Knesset for endorsement on Wednesday.

Although there is widespread dissatisfaction in both camps, it is most rampant in Peres Labor Party over concessions made to Likud. Surprise and anger were aroused in Labor circles by Peres agreement, albeit reluctant, to award a senior economic portfolio — Minister of Industry and Commerce — to former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, one of the most controversial figures on the Israeli political scene.

Laborites are chagrined by the allocation of all major economic portfolios in the unity Cabinet to Likud ministers. Primarily for that reason, the “Lashiluy” faction in Labor, consisting of professionals and academicians led by MK Micha Harish, announced that they would vote against the unity accord in the Central Committee. Similarly, the United Kibbutz Movement said it would appose the Labor-Likud deal.

But party leaders are confident that the Central Committee will give its approval and that opponents of the unity regime will, in the end, accept the majority decision.


Nevertheless, Labor faces the almost certain defection of MK Yossi Sanid who announced last Thursday that the would seek to form a parliamentary bloc with Mapam and Shulamit Alonis Citizens Rights Movement (CRM). Mapam has already announced its secession from its decades-old alignment with the Labor Party because it refuses to participate in or support any government with Likud. Peres said he would continue efforts to keep the Labor-Mapam Alignment together, but political observers believe it is a lost cause.

The concession to Sharon was most bitterly opposed in Labor ranks. Among all of the Likud politicians and senior army officers cited by the Kahan Committee last year for their role in the Sabra and Sharila refugee camps massacre, Sharon, who was Defense Minister at the time, was the most sharply censured. There were widespread demands for his ouster, but then Premier Menachem Begin retained him in his Cabinet, though as a Minister-Without-Portfolio.

His return to a senior position in the proposed unity Cabinet is viewed as the “rehabilitation” of a disgraced official. The Ministry of Industry and Commerce ranks second only to the Treasury. Peres reportedly agreed only after outgoing Premier Yitzhak Shamir made; it clear that unless Sharon got the post, the Likud Central Committee would not approve the unity government.

Peres bowed to this demand after consulting with Labor Party leaders Yitzhak Rabin, Yitzhak Navon and Haim Barlev. Sharon returned to Israel Friday from New York where he had testified in his libel suit against. Time magazine which, he alleges, maligned his role in the Lebanon war.


The senior economics post, Finance Ministry, will also remain in Likud hands, with former Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai slated to replace incumbent Yigal Cohen-Orgad. He will be the fifth Finance Minister in seven years. Avraham Shapiro of the Agudat Israel party, a Likud ally, will chair the Knesset’s powerful finance Committee, and Moshe Mandelbaum, formerly of the National Religious Party, will remain Governor of the Bank of Israel.

Labor would appear to be shut out of the key economic policy-making bodies. Gad Yaacobi, its candidate for the portfolio assigned to Sharon, is expected to reject the post of Minister of Economic Planning which is relatively minor. In that case, it is likely to go to former Finance Minister Yigael Hurvitz, a former Likud man now an independent MK aligned with Labor.


But the agreement worked out between Peres and Shamir calis for the creation of a small “inner Cabinet” to deal with economic matters. It would consist solely of Labor and Likud ministers. The former will be represented by Peres, Navon, Rabin, Barlev and Ezer Weizman who has aligned his new Yahad Party with Labor. Likud members will be Shamir, outgoing Deputy Premier and Housing Minister David Levv, outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Arens, Sharon and Modai.

This group will approve all major economic decisions before they are submitted to the full Cabinet for general approval. Whether or not the arrangement will mollify angry Laborites remains to be seen.

There is also strong dissatisfaction in Labor ranks over the failure to appoint former Foreign Minister Abba ban to senior Cabinet rank. Peres had proposed him for Minister of information. But Shamir, who will remain Foreign Minister as well as serving as Deputy Premier, insisted that information be kept within the realm of the Foreign Ministry.

The allocation of the Religious Ministry has not been resolved and controversy continues over whether it should be retained by the NRP or assigned to the new Shas Party which has a strong Sephardic constituency.


The unity Cabinet shaped by tentatively over the weekend as follows:

Premier, Peres; Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister, Shamir, Defense Minister, Rabin; Finance Minister, Modai; Commerce and Industry, Sharon, Economic Planning, Yaacobi; Deputy Premier and Education Minister, Navon; Minister for Special Missions, Weizman; Immigration and Absorption, Uzi Baram of, Labor, Police, Barlev, Moshe Shahal or Mordechai Gur, all Laborites; Communications, Amnon Rubinstein — but only. If his left-of-center Shinui faction agrees to join the government; Deputy Premier and Minister of Construction, David Levy of Likud; Justice Minister, Moshe Nissim of Likud; Tourism, Avraham Sharir of Likud; Energy, Arens, a major demotion from the defense portfolio.

Other portfolios, including the key Interior Ministry, have not been allocated. Shamir was asked over the weekend how this unity cabinet could function given the sharp divisions on key issues. His reply, significantly, stressed the role of the “inner cabinet” which apparently will not confine itself to economic matters. The inner Cabinet will grapple with the issues before they come before the full Cabinet and will seek to reach “formulas for coexistence,” Shamir said.


In political terms, the Peres-Shamir deal may prove costly to both their parties. The defections of Mapam, the CRM and Yossi Sarid will deprive Labor of 10 previously assured Knesset votes. As for Likud, it stands to lose the support of its principal ally, the ultra-nationalist Tehiya Party which won five Knesset seats in the July 23 elections to emerge the third largest parliamentary faction.

Tehiya leader Yuval Neeman has vowed to fight the unity coalition, as has Rabbi Meir Kahane of the one-man Kach faction who cut short a fund-raising and propaganda trip to the United States to return home for that purpose.

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