Labor Approves a Unity Government

A unity government appeared assured today with the Labor Party’s Central Committee voting 394-166 last night to to ratify the Labor-Likud agreement. The four-hour meeting was stormy, marked by sharp criticism of the unity accord. Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, speaking against a backdrop of frequent jeers and catcalls, told the Committee members that his government would withdraw the Israel Defense Force from south Lebanon and would halt further settlements in the West Bank.

Earlier in the day, the United Kibbutz Movement, a component of the Labor Party, voted against a unity government but at the same time decided that if the party approved such a government the Kibbutz movement would agree to have its representative serve as a Cabinet minister.

A NEW WRINKLE DEVELOPS

Meanwhile, a new wrinkle developed in the formalization of a unity government when Premier Yitzhak Shamir told Peres yesterday that he would not allow Ezer Weizman, the leader of Yahad, to deal with foreign affairs issues in the new Cabinet where Weizman is slated to be Minister for Special Affairs. This ministry will deal with special missions such as improving the relations with Egypt and renewing the peace process.

Shamir also objected to setting up a National Security Council, which was one of the key planks in Yahad’s platform and one of the main points of agreement between the Labor Party and Yahad which provided the basis for the Labor-Yahad parliamentary bloc. Shamir’s opposition to Weizman’s role in the new Cabinet and to the Security Council is reportedly final.

Nevertheless, Peres indicated that he still intends to set up a Security Council which would be part of the “inner Cabinet” and to appoint Yahad’s secretary-general Avraham Tamir as advisor to the “inner Cabinet” on the functions and activities of the Council.

Tamir, a general in the reserves, headed the national security unit at the Defense Ministry under Weizman and also during the Peace for Galilee operation. Tamir left the post after Moshe Arens become Defense Minister. Subsequently, the national security unit was abolished.

WILL TRY TO ESTABLISH FACTS

Despite Shamir’s objections to giving Weizman and his people key roles in the security and foreign affairs of the national unity government, it seems that Weizman, with the help of Peres, will simply try to establish facts.

Defense Minister-designate Yitzhak Rabin reportedly agrees with the idea of a National Security Council and it seems that he intends to cooperate with Weizman and Tamir. However, observers noted that this might be one of the first pitfalls of the new government — considering the presence of former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s presence in the Cabinet where clashes between him and Weizman are expected over foreign affairs and security issues. Sharon has been designated Minister of Commerce and Industry in the new Cabinet.

THE BEGINNING OF NEW FACTIONS

Last night’s meeting of the Labor Party Central Committee to ratify the unity accord was also, in effect, the end of the Labor Alignment, with Mapam as a partner. Mapam left the Alignment after the unity government was announced, and will now seek to join with

Peres is expected to present his unity government to the Knesset tomorrow after a final meeting with Shamir tonight on the government’s policy platform. Earlier today, the two met to conclude arrangements for the allocation of portfolios in the new Cabinet.

Shamir reportedly intends to convene the out-going Cabinet briefly in the Knesset building before the parliament begins its debate on the new government. Peres is also expected to convene the new Cabinet briefly for a formal meeting after the Knesset’s vote of confidence. Peres is also scheduled to lead his ministers to the traditional meeting with President Chaim Herzog tomorrow evening or Thursday morning.

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