Rotation is Hanging Fire

The rotation of power process ran into a last minute snag Tuesday when Labor and Likud failed to settle outstanding differences between them over the composition of the new unity coalition Cabinet and other matters.

Labor Party leader Shimon Peres and Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir met for 35 minutes Tuesday afternoon but apparently resolved nothing. No date was set for a further meeting. Shamir told Israel Radio afterwards that neither side changed its position and the rotation is hanging fire.

Peres submitted his resignation as Premier to President Chaim Herzog on Friday. It became effective under law 48 hours later, on Sunday. Peres, who technically heads a care-taker government, was scheduled to hand over his office to Shamir Tuesday and the latter had been expected to present his new Cabinet to the Knesset Tuesday night for formal approval.

SOME OF THE ISSUES AWAITING RESOLUTION

That sequence of events seems not likely to take place as scheduled. Shamir reportedly rejected Peres’ proposal that a Cabinet of 23 ministers be formed now with the question of including former Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai left open for later discussion.

Modai was forced to resign from the government last summer after an angry personal confrontation with Peres. Likud activists have demanded his re-instatement as head of the Treasury in the new government. It was reported earlier Tuesday that Labor was amenable to Modai in the Cabinet as a Minister-Without-Portfolio.

Apart from Modai, Labor’s nomination of Cabinet Secretary Yossi Beilin as Israel’s next Ambassador to the U.S. is opposed by Likud. Labor, for its part, took issue with Likud’s plan to appoint the hawkish Moshe Arens as Minister-Without-Portfolio with special responsibility for Soviet Jewry affairs. Likud, in turn, wants to replace Ezer Weizman as Minister-Without-Port-folio in charge of Arab affairs.

ACCUSATIONS AND COUNTER-ACCUSATIONS

Each coalition partner has accused the other of ill will. Labor Party Secretary General Uzi Baram and Labor Knesset faction chairman Rafi Edri held a press conference Tuesday at which they accused Likud of trying to introduce structural changes in the government in violation of the coalition agreement. Baram said he would convene the Labor Party’s General Assembly Thursday to “decide the future of the government.”

Likud maintains that the rotation should be implemented in full without preconditions by Labor. A Likud spokesman said Tuesday that remaining differences can be settled after Peres and Shamir exchange offices.

The rotation process was suspended over Yom Kippur. Dire predictions of a government crisis even before there is a new government seemed to be without substance Sunday night when Peres and Shamir, in a public display of amity, prayed side-by-side at Kol Nidre services in Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, to the obvious delight of the overflow congregation.

They walked home together, Shamir dropping Peres off at the Prime Minister’s residence and continuing on to his Foreign Minister’s residence about 300 yards away. The two men are to exchange official residences as well as jobs. It was hoped that Shamir would be able to present his Cabinet to the Knesset Wednesday.

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