JERUSALEM (Sep. 2)
Likud Minister-Without-Portfolio Moshe Arens (Herut) handed his resignation to Premier Yitzhak Shamir Wednesday night after a Likud ministerial caucus on the Lavi issue.
Even though the Likud Ministers resolved to “fight” last Sunday’s Cabinet decision scrapping the Lavi project. Arens went ahead with his threatened resignation. He is understood to believe that the Likud Ministers’ resolution was largely declarative and would not in fact lead to a re-vote in the Cabinet.
Labor Ministers, meanwhile, meeting separately, came out firmly against any attempt to procure a Cabinet re-vote. Labor sources said the party would resist any such effort by insisting that the issue go to the Inner Cabinet — where, with Likud’s Moshe Nissim, Minister of Finance, voting against the plane, the Lavi would once again be defeated.
Nissim did not attend the Likud ministerial caucus Wednesday evening at Shamir’s home — a clear indication of the strains between himself and his colleagues, all of whom voted against Sunday’s Cabinet decision.
Sources close to Nissim repeated Wednesday that he would instantly resign his post if the Prime Minister sought to put pressure on him to change his position on the Lavi. Nissim himself has refused to address in public the possibility of his being pressured, or even dismissed, by Shamir. But he has continued spiritedly to defend his stance against the Lavi project, on both economic and defense-related grounds.
REACTIONS WITH THE LIKUD
The Likud Ministers, in their resolution, claimed that the proposal put forward Sunday by Vice Premier Shimon Peres, which received a 13-12 vote in the Cabinet, had been “inadequately prepared.”
Privately, Likud sources have attacked Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin for “feeding the Cabinet misleading information.” This has been said in reaction to Rabin’s impassioned defense, on television Monday night, of the Cabinet decision to stop the Lavi project and devote the same U.S. aid funds to other vital Israel Defense Force proposed projects.
Trade and Industry Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters after the Likud Ministers’ caucus that their resolution would mean “finding ways of delaying implementation of the Cabinet decision … We can now see that the Cabinet decision was not based on firm grounds.”
Sharon and Arens reportedly demanded at the caucus that Shamir dismiss Nissim and possibly “go to the country” over the Lavi issue. The Premier, however, is said to be firmly against early elections, and insiders say he is also opposed to trying to obtain a Cabinet re-vote on the Lavi, since success for the Likud would be unlikely.