JERUSALEM (Oct. 27)
The Secretary-General of the Labor Party, MK Uzi Baram, warned today that the national unity government would fall apart if the Likud sought to “veto” diplomatic progress towards peace.
Baram spoke after Premier Shimon Peres had told the Cabinet at its weekly meeting that his peace proposals, voiced during his visit to the United States, had in no way diverged from the agreed policy guidelines of the unity government.
The Premier, who returned home last night after a weekend stopover in Paris, is to make a formal statement to the Knesset tomorrow. The Knesset is also to debate a non-confidence motion presented by the rightist opposition faction, Tehiya. This vote could be crucial for the future of the unity government if Likud MKs defect in any significant numbers from the coalition.
The Likud Ministers met in caucus last night at the home of Deputy Premier and Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir, and announced their unanimous rejection of what they said were four elements of Peres’ proposals. They rejected international auspices; rejected a partial settlement with Jordan; rejected talks with the PLO; and they rejected any form of border demarcation.
Peres himself, in comments on arrival after midnight, noted that the Camp David autonomy scheme was itself an interim settlement; that he had not proposed border demarcation talks at this stage; that he, too, rejected talks with the PLO; and that he had spoken of an international forum, which was not the same as international auspices.
BEGIN’S ATTITUDE RECALLED
At the Cabinet this morning, Labor’s Energy Minister Moshe Shahal, a close confidant of the Premier, pointed out that former Premier Menachem Begin himself had agreed, in 1977, to a formal international auspices as the start of direct negotiations.
Thus, Israeli and Egyptian negotiators had assembled at the Mena House in Cairo in December 1977 in a conference formally billed “preparatory to the Geneva conference.” The Geneva conference, which had convened briefly in December 1973 after the Yom Kippur War, was co-chaired by the U.S. and the USSR.
Replying to this, Morasha’s Minister-Without-Portfolio Yosef Shapira reportedly noted coldly that Begin was “not the Beit Din (court) of the present government.”
Leaked reports from the Cabinet room mentioned, significantly, that Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin was among the Labor Ministers who warmly praised Peres’ performance and achievements during his U.S. visit.
Baram, who spoke publicly today of the consequences of a Likud “veto,” was referring in his remarks to reporters, to Likud’s warning that it would want a vote on Peres’ proposals not in the full Cabinet — but in the 10-member Inner Cabinet. There the proposals would be virtually certain to be turned down, in a tie vote.
Under the unity Cabinet agreement, each side has the right to demand that key issues be decided — or, as in this case, undecided — in the Inner Cabinet.
Baram’s warning was that if this happened, and given — as he insisted — that Peres’ proposals were within the agreed consensus and did not touch upon the substantive Labor-Likud differences over Judaea and Samaria, Labor would not tolerate this “veto” but would move to break up the unity government.