JERUSALEM (Oct. 19)
Premier-designate Yitzhak Shamir will present his new unity coalition Cabinet to the Knesset for a vote of confidence Monday. Approval of the new government, which is virtually assured, will complete the Labor-Likud rotation of power process with few changes in the make-up of the Cabinet.
Outgoing Premier Shimon Peres took leave of the Cabinet at its regular weekly meeting Sunday. He expressed his thanks to the Ministers for their cooperation during the two years of his tenure, wished Shamir well in his new office and promised to help him to the best of his ability in the national interest.
Peres becomes Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister in the new government, the offices held by Shamir in the outgoing one. He presided over his last Cabinet session as Premier in what was described as a “business as usual” atmosphere, neither festive nor mournful. It was devoted mainly to security matters.
ROTATION DELAYED BY DISPUTES
The rotation process, scheduled to have begun October 14, four days after Peres’ formal resignation, was delayed for nearly a week by disputes between Labor and Likud over the composition of the new Cabinet and other matters. These were settled Friday when Peres and Shamir signed a 10-point memorandum of understanding.
Immediately afterwards, Shamir called on President Chaim Herzog to inform him that a new government was finally possible and received Herzog’s assent to begin the task of forming one. An hour later, Shamir sent Herzog a letter advising him that the government had been formed.
The Peres-Shamir agreement was countersigned by Justice Minister Moshe Nissim of Likud and Energy Minister Moshe Shahal of Labor, the men who negotiated the original national unity government agreement 25 months ago.
A COMPROMISE AGREEMENT
It is essentially a compromise over the issues that were in dispute between Labor and Likud. The 25-Minister Cabinet to be headed by Shamir, will include Likud-Liberal Yitzhak Modai whose resignation as Finance Minister last July was the outcome of a bitter personal confrontation with Peres.
Labor wanted him out the new government, Likud insisted he be reinstated to head the Treasury. Under the Peres-Shamir agreement he will be designated a Minister-Without-Portfolio in the new Cabinet.
Peres and Shamir also clashed over the former’s nomination of his close associate, Cabinet Secretary Yossi Beilin, to be Israel’s next Ambassador to the U.S. Beilin was vigorously opposed by Likud. The agreement stipulates that Peres, as Foreign Minister, will provide a list of candidates from which Shamir will select the next Ambassador. The current envoy, Meir Rosenne, will remain in Washington for the next seven months. Beilin will receive a senior post in the Foreign Ministry.
The memorandum states that the Premier must consult with the Deputy Premier in order to invest new powers in any minister. The issue addressed was Shamir’s intention to assign to Minister-Without-Portfolio Moshe Arens responsibility for matters relating to Soviet Jewry. Labor objected on grounds that such assignment would strip power from the Labor-held Ministry of Absorption.
POSSIBLE AFFECTS ON LABOR AND LIKUD
It was unclear how this compromise will affect internal Herut Party politics. Arens reportedly stormed out of a Likud Ministerial caucus last Thursday night, accusing Shamir of betraying a pledge.
Arens and Shamir had been politically close. Arens stood by Shamir when he was under attack by factions supporting David Levy and Ariel Sharon at the aborted Herut Party convention earlier this year and many observers believed Shamir wanted Arens to succeed him when he leaves office.
Sources close to Shamir contended Friday that the memorandum does not prevent him from giving Arens control over agencies of government dealing with Jews in the Soviet Union, though not Soviet Jews residing in Israel.
The only other shift in the new Cabinet will be the replacement of Laborite Mordechai Gur as Minister of Health by Labor MK Shoshana Arbeli-Almoslino. Gur resigned, refusing to serve in a government headed by Shamir. Arbeli-Almoslino will be the only woman in the Cabinet.
SAYS ‘LAST DIFFICULTIES’ OVERCOME
Shamir said Friday that the dispute that delayed the rotation process would leave no ill feelings on the part of Likud. He expressed satisfaction that the two coalition partners overcame “the last difficulties of the national unity government in its first chapter” and confidence that the unity government would complete the two years remaining in its term.
But political observers believe the disputes of the past week, albeit settled, harmed Labor’s image with the electorate. Peres was seen as lingering on after his formal resignation October 10 to extract concessions from Likud. That, at the least was the way Likud described the situation.
Peres himself played down the delay. He said it was a pity a few days were wasted in dispute “but perhaps it was for the best. We have sorted out our differences.”