JERUSALEM (Apr. 15)
Minister-Without-Portfolio Ezer Weizman will fly to Cairo tonight, as scheduled, for meetings with Egyptian leaders, after the Cabinet, in a telephone poll today, reversed its decision of yesterday not to approve his trip.
Both the Cabinet’s decision Sunday against the trip and today’s reversal were carried by a one-vote margin. While an immediate crisis in the Labor-Likud national unity Cabinet was averted, Premier Shimon Peres and Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir conceded that the affair has “left a bitter taste.”
Shamir, the Likud leader who had battled against Weizman’s trip and latterly sought to have it at least postponed, made it clear tonight that he would not force a Cabinet crisis over his defeat in the telephone poll. Shamir’s aides said the issue was “not important enough” to precipitate the downfall of the government. But it was clear to political observers that strains within the seven month-old unity coalition are more severe than ever and tensions simmering over the Weizman trip may drastically shorten its tenure.
In fact, today’s procedure which allowed the visit to take place as scheduled came under sharp attack by Likud spokesmen for allegedly violating the letter and spirit of the coalition agreement.
EFFORTS TO REVERSE CABINET DECISION
After the Cabinet rejected the trip Sunday — a severe personal and political rebuff to Premier Peres — it was agreed to convene the 10-man “inner cabinet” this morning for further discussion. The inner cabinet, comprising senior Labor and Likud ministers, deadlocked 5-5 on the issue. The tie meant that Weizman’s trip was off.
It was clear to observers that Peres was prepared to resign if the trip was vetoed. Immediately after a meeting with Shamir he instructed Cabinet Secretary Yossi Beilin to poll the ministers by telephone.
In the telephone poll, Minister-Without-Portfolio Yigael Hurwitz of the Ometz faction and Religious Affairs Minister Yosef Burg of the National Religious Party, both of whom had abstained at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, voted with Labor. So did Communications Minister Amnon Rubinstein of the Shinui faction, who was absent from Sunday’s session. Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz of the Shash faction, who is Minister of Interior and was also absent Sunday, voted with Likud.
Economics Minister Gad Yaacobi, a Laborite who is out of the country, assigned his proxy to Hurwitz who duely cast Yaacobi’s vote for Labor. The final telephone vote was 12-11 in favor of Weizman’s trip.