JERUSALEM (Sep. 13)
Israel had a new government today — a unity government. Premier Shimon Peres, leader of the Labor Party, presented his unity government to the Knesset this afternoon — after 40 days of arduous inter-party negotiations which lasted right up to the very moment of the presentation.
He termed the seven-party coalition, which embraces 97 members of the 120-member Knesset,”a bold and novel experiment” and said it bore with it “the genuine hopes of the nation” for unity that could transcend political differences.
Peres praised his Deputy Premier, Yitzhak Shamir (Likud-Herut) for “his capability for dialogue and his desire for genuine cooperation towards a unity government. “
Under the coalition agreement, Shamir will replace Peres as Premier, and Peres will replace Shamir as Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister, 25 months into the Knesset term.
LISTS TWO TOP PRIORITY ITEMS
In a brief and businesslike presentation speech, Peres listed the economy and Lebanon as the two top priority items on the new government’s agenda. What was needed on the former, he declared, was “immediate and energetic action. ” And he predicted that with steady effort, Israel could take its place in the forefront of the world’s nations in the fields of science, technology, agriculture and industry.
Peres pledged the government would ensure the security of the northern border villages in its quest to end the Lebanon involvement. And he stressed the constant need to preserve and expand the strength of the Israeli Defense Force as Israel’s prime guarantee of peace and security.
His next target, Peres said, was to expand the peace process. He called on all Israel’s neighbors to enter peace negotiations, and addressed a special call to King Hussein of Jordan, “at this special moment, ” to join in talks with Israel.
Carefully rehearsing the delicate wording of the government’s policy-platform (the wording was subject to intense negotiation), Peres called on Jordan to come to the negotiating table where, he said, it could put forward any proposals — and the new government would consider them carefully. By the same token, he added, Jordan would be asked to listen to and consider proposals put forward by Israel.
Peres did not refer to the Camp David process in this context. He did, however, mention Camp David in the context of Egypt, calling on that country to return its long-absent Ambassador and help develop the peace treaty with Israel into “a step towards” much broader and deeper regional cooperation.
In a reference to the Soviet Union, Peres read out a moving cable received today by President Chaim Herzog and the Knesset from a group of Jews in Moscow, Leningrad, Riga and Odessa urging Israel to act in their behalf and help them realize their goal of aliya. “Our answer is: your destiny is our destiny …. we shall never forget, ” Peres declared.
He urged Moscow to reestablish diplomatic ties with Israel, “ties severed at a time of anger. ” He added that Israel would “continue knocking on the closed door of China. “
But the main focus of the country’s preoccupations and the new government’s efforts, Peres said, was the home front. He dwelt on the need to shore up democracy and the rule of law, and spoke of tolerance as a social value that it was vital to enhance. The Arab and Druze citizens particularly, he said, must not only be equal — but feel they are equal.
As his wife Sonia, sitting alongside Shulamit Shamir, looked down from the VIP gallery, Peres spoke of his sense of excitement and of deep responsibility at this moment.
LIST OF MINISTERS PRESENTED
He allowed a smile to cross his face when he read out the list of Cabinet ministers:
LABOR: Shimon Peres; Yitzhak Rabin, Defense; Mordechai Gur, Health; Moshe Shahal, Energy; Haim Barlev, Police; Yitzhak Navon, Deputy Premier and Education; Arye Nehamkin, Agriculture; Yaakov Tsur, Absorption; and Gad Yaacobi, Economics and Planning.
Other ministers on the Labor side of the Knesset announced are: Amnon Rubinstein (Shinui), Communications; Yigael Hurvitz (Courage to Cure the Economy), Without Portfolio; Ezer Weizman (Yahad), Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
LIKUD: Yitzhak Shamir; Moshe Arens, Without Portfolio; David Levy, Deputy Premier and Housing; Ariel Sharon, Trade and Industry; Yitzhak Modai, Finance; Moshe Nissim, Justice; Gideon Patt, Without Portfolio; Avraham Sharir, Tourism; Haim Corfu, Transportation; Moshe Katzav, Labor and Welfare.
Also on the Likud side of the Knesset: Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz (Shas), Without Portfolio; Yosef Shapira (Morasha), Without Portfolio; Yosef Burg (National Religious Party), Without Portfolio.
Peres did not announce the ministers who would hold the Interior and Religious Affairs portfolios as a result of an 11th-hour compromise with the NRP. Peres will hold these portfolios for the time being. (See separate story.)