Peres Against Shamir’s Pick for Next Ambassador to U.S.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres is expected to block the appointment of Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s choice to be Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Peres’ opposition to Olmert, a Likud minister without porfolio, was disclosed as the Labor Party leader returned to work after undergoing minor surgery last week.

The Likud-Labor coalition agreement gives the leaders of both parties veto power over diplomatic appointments.

Peres is said to be still angry over Olmert’s biting attacks against Labor during the 1988 Knesset election campaign.

He also has full confidence in the incumbent ambassador, career diplomat Moshe Arad, who has been in Washington less than two years. Arad was appointed when Peres was foreign minister in the previous Likud-Labor government.

Shamir approved of him at the time and still has confidence in Arad. But he and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens would like to see Olmert, a Likud loyalist, in Israel’s most important diplomatic post.

Olmert himself raised obstacles. He made his acceptance of the posting conditional on his retention of his Cabinet rank.

There is no precedent for that in Israeli history. Attorney General Yosef Harish has been asked for a legal opinion on the matter.

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