JERUSALEM (Apr. 16)
The first stirrings of discomfort within Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud bloc became evident Sunday as the prime minister presented an initial report to the full Cabinet on his talks in Washington and his proposal for elections in the administered areas.
But Shamir won broad support from the Cabinet as a whole, which endorsed his elections proposal.
The plan will now proceed to the Inner Cabinet for further refinement and then to a special committee of expert civil servants, who will draft its formal details.
In the Arab world, meanwhile, the elections plan has been the subject of intensive discussion. Both Jordan’s King Hussein and a leading Palestinian activist in the territories were said to be developing their own plans for elections.
In the Israeli Cabinet, the most senior Likud critic was Deputy Premier David Levy, who warned publicly after the meeting that Israel “must not act like an ostrich, pretending this is what it isn’t.”
He said the election proposal could well lead Israel into negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which neither Likud nor Labor desires.
Another Likud Cabinet member, Economics and Planning Minister Yitzhak Modai, said Israel is like the man who jumped from the 30th floor, and, passing by the fifth-floor window, remarked, “So far, so good.”
Would a parachute open to guide Israel to a safe landing? Modai wondered.
He demanded clarity on such issues as the voting eligibility of East Jerusalem Palestinians in the proposed elections.
ALTERNATIVE PLAN REPORTED
Shamir himself said he thought elections could be held “at an early date” in the future, though for the moment he has not formulated any detailed practical scheme.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party, Shamir’s key ally in the election initiative, said there was “no need to make the elections conditional upon the cessation” of the Palestinian uprising.
Once the election process was under way, Rabin explained, the intifada would wane “of its own accord.”
Another important Labor figure, Energy Minister Moshe Shahal, expressed gratification at the fact that Shamir’s visit to the United States had precipitated new diplomatic movement on the peace front.
Palestinian activist Faisal al-Husseini, meanwhile, is said to have proposed an alternative plan for local elections during a recent visit to Cairo.
According to reports from Cairo, the plan calls for elections under international supervision, with the full cooperation of the PLO. The Israel Defense Force would withdraw troops from all but key strategic positions during the referendum.
Those elected would serve as local representatives to the Palestine National Council, which the Palestinians call their parliament in exile.
Leaders in the territories reacted to the reported plan with mixed feelings, but it was not rejected outright. They are said to be waiting for a signal from the PLO on how it feels about the elections idea.
PLO leader Yasir Arafat said last week that he would agree to elections only if they were held under international supervision and if the IDF withdrew from the territories. Arafat has been hopping from Arab capital to capital, presumably sounding out various Arab leaders.