Sentiment Growing in Labor Party to End Its Coalition with Likud

Sentiment is growing within the Labor Party to end its coalition with Likud and take the major issues which have divided the unity government to the voters. This will be put to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, the party leader, when he returns from his weekend trip to the U.S. Monday evening.

The secessionist camp was strengthened after Communications Minister Amnon Rubinstein of the Labor-allied Shinui Party announced Sunday that he would recommend his party leave the government because it is hopelessly deadlocked on the issue of a peace conference. Rubinstein indicated that he hoped his move would spur Labor to follow suit.

Rancor between the coalition partners was escalated by Sunday’s Cabinet decision — adopted in face of Labor opposition — to charge Israel Defense Force veterans lower university fees than non-veterans. The $450 differential was seen as blatant discrimination against Arab students inasmuch as Arabs are banned by law from serving in Israel’s armed forces.

Labor Party Secretary General Uzi Baram denounced the decision Monday. He said it put Israel “in line with South Africa.” Secessionists maintain that even if Likud managed to put together a narrowly based governing coalition with the small religious parties, Labor must leave now rather than bow to compromises which sully its image.

SHORT LIFE FOR LIKUD-LED GOVERNMENT

But they are convinced that a Likud-led government would not last long. That view apparently is shared by Shas, the ultra-Orthodox Party Likud has been trying to woo with promises of major religious concessions. Shas MK Rafael Pinhasi said on a television interview Sunday night that if Labor left the coalition a narrowly based government would be short-lived.

Nevertheless, Peres has been reluctant to lead Labor out of the government and precipitate its downfall. He would prefer to have the Knesset vote to dissolve itself and call early elections. As of last week he was still several votes short of passing such a resolution.

DISPUTE OVER NEXT AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.

Meanwhile, the long-simmering dispute between Labor and Likud over who will be the next Ambassador to Washington seemed further than ever from resolution. Up to now all Labor nominees to succeed the incumbent envoy Meir Rosenne, have been rejected by Premier Yitzhak Shamir. Rosenne’s term expires at the end of this month and he is preparing to leave Washington.

Sources close to Shamir disclosed Sunday that he has asked Rosenne to stay on for another two months. Peres’ aides said Sunday that the Foreign Minister proposed two other candidates for Israel’s most important diplomatic posting abroad. They are Uri Lubrani, the government’s advisor on policy in south Lebanon who was Israel’s representative in Teheran before the Shah was deposed in 1979; and Itmar Rabinovitch, an expert on Arab affairs and a professor at Tel Aviv University.

NEXT STORY