JERUSALEM (May. 29)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, facing fierce opposition within his own party to the idea of Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, seemed Monday to back off from a showdown in the Likud Central Committee over the peace plan he has tried to sell to the United States and Western Europe.
Shamir, who had just returned from a weeklong visit to Britain and Spain, told reporters he would bring the plan before Likud’s policy-making body “if and when there is a need to decide.”
He described the initiative, in its present stage, as just “an unhatched egg” and implied he would prefer to defer a decision in Likud until there is an Arab partner ready to accept it.
Shamir replied “no comment’ when asked if he thought it likely that the Central Committee would never be convened to debate the plan.
The Prime Minister’s Office later said officially that a date would soon be set for a Central Committee discussion.
Shamir’s remarks brought angry protests from the Labor side of the unity government, which backs the initiative, and from Likud hardliners, who oppose it.
Communications Minister Gad Ya’acobi of Labor warned that his party would consider bringing the government down if the initiative fails to materialize.
Ehud Olmert, a Herut minister without portfolio who is close to Shamir, insisted that the prime minister is not “scared off” by Likud opposition to his plan. He said that if debate within the party was deferred it would be only for a matter of weeks.
But Tzahi Hanegbi, a Herut Knesset member who normally supports Shamir, is firmly against the plan.
“Frankly, I do not understand the prime minister’s logic,” he said. “He submits the plan to the Cabinet, to the Knesset, to the United States, France, United Kingdom and Spain.
“He calls it a ‘breakthrough.’ And now he says it is an ‘unhatched egg,’” Hanegbi remarked.