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Coalition Crisis Averted After Sharon Apologizes to Peres for Remarks on Istanbul Terrorism

The coalition crisis threatened by Ariel Sharon’s remarks faded Monday as swiftly as it arose 24 hours earlier when the Likud hardliner implied that the terrorist attack on an Istanbul synagogue Saturday was the result of “weakness” shown by the Israeli government.

Sharon sent a letter of retraction, published here Sunday night, which Labor Party Ministers said entirely fulfilled Premier Shimon Peres’ requirement for a full recantation. Likud circles seemed relieved that a showdown was averted. But this was coupled with embarrassment over Sharon’s behavior.

Peres cancelled Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting and demanded that Sharon retract and apologize for his allegation on a Saturday radio interview that “the unceasing pursuit of dubious and baseless peace plans at a time when our enemies are waging an unending war against us contributed to the weakening of Israel’s shield…and has exposed Jews abroad even more to Palestinian terror.”

Sharon, who is Minister of Commerce and Industry, stated in his letter to Peres:

“There is no connection between the decisions of the government and what happened in Istanbul. There is no connection between our sincere and general striving for peace and the murder of Jews. I have never once believed that this had to be the answer to the PLO’s murder and terror organizations to the Israel government’s desire for peace, as has been attributed to me. It is they who, due to their murderous nature, have chosen that course.”

The letter added: “We must stand stalwart against the PLO’s terror which is backed by Syria and Libya. Failure on our part to stand united against that terror will only encourage its activities… At this very moment, the entire world is awaiting the reaction of the Israel government. We must stand united against the dangers which confront us.”

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