JERUSALEM (May. 17)
Communications Minister Amnon Rubinstein announced Sunday that he would advise his Shinui Party to leave the Labor-Likud unity coalition government in which it has been a strong ally of Labor.
A decision is expected Wednesday when the Shinui Council meets. Although the party holds only three Knesset seats, its defection would seriously weaken Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in his bitter deadlock with Premier Yitzhak Shamir over an international conference for Middle East peace.
But Rubinstein, who supports Peres on that issue, indicated his move was intended to spur Labor to break its three-year coalition with Likud and press for early elections. He told a press conference that the stalemate has paralyzed the government and it is no longer viable.
THE ‘LAST STRAW’
But the “last straw,” he said, was Likud’s negotiations with the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party which has four Knesset mandates that could enable Likud to form a narrowly based coalition without Labor. Likud reportedly promised Shas it would push through the controversial “Who Is a Jew” amendment to the Law of Return which would outlaw conversions by non-Orthodox rabbis.
Shas politicians were conferring Sunday with the party’s Council of Sages over whether former Interior Minister Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz should rejoin the Cabinet in return for Likud’s promises. Peretz resigned several months ago rather than comply with a Supreme Court order to register as Jewish an immigrant, Shoshana Miller, converted by a Reform rabbi in the U.S.
Rubinstein said he expected his party to accept his recommendation to leave the government. One of his two Knesset colleagues, Mordechai Virshubsky, has long been urging this course. But the other Shinui MK, Druze leader Zaidan Atashi said he would not support secession. Media reports said Sunday he has cut a deal with Likud which promised him a safe seat on their ticket in the next Knesset elections.
CITES VIOLATION OF COALITION AGREEMENT
Rubinstein charged that Shamir and others who were blocking Peres’ conference initiative violated Article 7 of the Coalition Agreement “which pledges us to act toward peace and in the interest of peace.”
He said that regardless of whether Peres’ plans would or could ultimately succeed, “I know one thing: If we reject it, there is no chance at all of advancing the peace process . . . . and there will be very serious repercussions for Israel.”
Rubinstein, a former law professor at Tel Aviv University, lashed out at what he saw as the increasing clericalization of Israel’s legal system. He castigated former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s role in the Shas deliberations. As a dayan (judge) in the Supreme Rabbinical Court, Yosef was ordered by the Supreme Court six months ago to desist from political activism.