Disunity in Unity Government Efforts
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Disunity in Unity Government Efforts

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The defection of Mapam from the Labor Alignment and the resignation of Yossi Sarid from the Labor Party has created a new lineup in the Knesset. Mapam, whose Central Committee last night voted 400-9 to end its 19-year partnership with Labor, will now be an independent Knesset faction. Sarid, an outspoken Labor dove, has joined the Citizens Rights Movement and is seeking to bring Mapam and the CRM together into a dovish parliamentary bloc.

The defection of Mapam and Sarid thus reduced the number of Labor seats in the Knesset from 44 to 37, compared to Likud’s 41 seats. However, the seven-seat loss is offset by the parliamentary bloc between Labor and Yahad, with three seats, and Ometz (Courage to Cure the Economy), with one seat, thus bring the number of Labor seats up to par with Likud.

Both Mapam and Sarid defected in protest against the agreement by Premier-designate Shimon Peres 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. In addition, many Laborites are also chagrined over Peres’ agreement to give the Finance Ministry and the powerful Finance Committee to Likud.

Primarly for that reason, the “Lashiluv” faction of the Labor Party, comprising professionals, intellectuals and academicians, announced they would vote against the unity accord when the 1,000-member Central Committee meets today. At the same time, the powerful United Kibbutz Movement also said it would oppose the Labor-Likud deal.


Meanwhile, both Shinui, with three Knesset seats, and Tehiya, with five seats, were meeting separately last night and today to decide whether to join the unity government. In Shinui, there was a split between party chairman Amnon Rubinstein, who felt that Shinui could contribute more inside the government, and Mordechai Virshubsky, Shinui’s number two person, who felt that there was nothing in common between the proposed coalition and Shinui, and has therefore rejected altogether joining the government.

At the same time, Likud leaders were busy last night and today trying to convince Tehiya to join the government. Tehiya leader, Science and Development Minister Yuval Neeman, said last week that his party would not join the government because of its “sell-out” over settlements. However, Morasha, the new rightwing religious faction which has two Knesset seats, has proposed that it and Tehiya join the unity government on condition that the new government’s settlement policy is satisfactory.

Despite the anger in Labor circles over concessions to Likud, the Central Committee is expected to ratify the unity deal, though with a large minority — of up to 30 to 40 percent — in opposition. Even those favoring the deal said they did so with a heavy heart. Abba Eban seemed to sum up the general feeling at the Central Committee today by saying that a unity government was the least of all the possible evils.

Peres told the meeting that there were only two alternatives: to go ahead with a unity government or to hold new elections. He said he doubted that the results of a new election would alter the situation.

As the meeting was being held, Peace Now representatives demonstrated outside the hall, protesting the inclusion of Sharon in the proposed Cabinet. Peres told them at an earlier meeting with the Peace Now people that the Labor Party had no alternative but to accept the Cabinet members proposed by Likud, once the idea of a unity government had been accepted.

Today’s meeting was called to accept the idea of a unity government, leaving the question of who will fill the Cabinet posts to another session tomorrow. The Herut Central Committee is to meet tomorrow to accept the party slate of proposed ministers drawn up by Premier Yitzhak Shamir and party leaders.

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