JERUSALEM (Feb. 25)
Vice Premier and Labor Party leader Shimon Peres declared in Cairo Wednesday that he would represent the entire Israeli government in his talks there with Egypt’s leaders.
But Likud leaders here reiterated Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s warnings that the unity government could fall if Peres persisted in pursuing the option of an international conference for the Middle East.
Shamir himself was still en route for home, following a 10-day trip to the U.S., as Peres left for Cairo.
Peres’ timing plainly was regarded by Likud as an open insult to the Premier, and political circles said Wednesday that the crisis between the two main coalition partners was at its deepest.
One important indication of the political atmosphere was a statement by National Religious Party leader Zevulun Hammer, Minister of Religions. Long an ardent supporter of the unity government, Hammer said Wednesday that with the two leaders so at loggerheads, it was “hard to see what the value of this unity is” and that perhaps the best alternative would indeed be elections.
The crisis will come to a head on Sunday, when the two leaders confront each other across the Cabinet table.
Peres will meet President Hosni Mubarak Thursday on the second day of his trip to Egypt. After his arrival he had talks with Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel-Meguid, and later visited the Cairo Synagogue.