JERUSALEM (Nov. 27)
Ariel Sharon, Likud’s most outspoken hard-liner, is urging his party to establish a new government quickly with the extreme right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties.
He was quoted Sunday as saying Premier Yitzhak Shamir “can present a government this week.”
Sharon seems to be spurred by speculation that Shamir may be having second thoughts about aligning Likud with the ultra-Orthodox and the secular right.
According to Israel Radio, some Likud members are urging the prime minister to reject the small parties and cut a deal with Labor. The purpose would be to avoid paying the price demanded by the ultra-Orthodox factions.
They have exacted from Shamir a promise to push through the Knesset the divisive “Who Is a Jew” amendment to the Law of Return.
The amendment, introduced by the religious parties last week, would deny automatic Israeli citizenship to persons converted by non-Orthodox rabbis.
If Shamir wavers, it would have much to do with the unprecedented opposition by Diaspora Jewry, especially in the United States, to the “Who Is a Jew” amendment.
Though the measure would directly affect relatively small numbers of potential citizens, it would be a devastating slap at Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, which represent the vast majority of affiliated Jews in the United States and other nations of the Diaspora.
No other issue in Israel’s 40 years of statehood has so galvanized the Diaspora leadership.
EFFORTS TO WOO LABOR
A Likud alliance with Labor would offer a way out of the controversy. Although Labor formally broke off coalition talks last Tuesday, Shamir’s top lieutenants reportedly are trying to revive them.
Shamir was quoted Sunday as saying he had no option but to align with the religious extremists. But Likud sources said the party’s position will emerge only after a meeting of its ministers Monday, to be chaired by Shamir.
Against that background, Sharon is assuring the Orthodox and right-wing parties that Shamir will not abandon them.
He complained that the news media persist in calling a rightist government a “narrow Cabinet.” According to Sharon, it would be “a Cabinet that can take decisions” and “that above all is what we need at this time.”
He added that he has “heard nothing” to substantiate reports that Shamir is prepared to offer the Finance Ministry to Shimon Peres, a portfolio Labor is said to be willing to accept.
There have been other reports that Shamir would like Laborite Yitzhak Rabin to remain on as defense minister, a job Sharon once held and apparently still covets.