JERUSALEM (Jul. 16)
Israel’s Likud and Labor parties this weekend edged toward resolving a governmet crisis over the Middle East peace process.
But the Cabinet avoided a test vote Sunday to reaffirm the government’s peace initiative, which it had endorsed by a large majority May 14.
Both Labor and Likud ministers balked, prompting Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to postpone the show of hands to a future meeting.
Political observers believe both parties will use the interim to reach a compromise that would end Labor’s threat to leave the coalition government.
The entire peace undertaking was cast in doubt when Likud hard-liners succeeded in attaching a series of tough restrictions and conditions to Shamir’s peace plan, making it unacceptable to Labor.
The Labor Party Executive, meeting on July 10, recommended that the party’s Central Committee end the alliance with Likud over this issue.
But Labor’s leadership seems in no great hurry. The Central Committee will not convene until sometime next month, allowing ample time for a resolution of coalition differences.
Reconciliation efforts began early Sunday morning, when Shamir and his closest ally, Foreign Minister Moshe Arens, met privately with Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who chairs the Labor Party, and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Labor’s No. 2 man.
Rabin was co-author of the peace plan with shamir.
SHAMIR TRVING TO REASSURE LABOR
The United States, anxious that the unity government be preserved, has cooperated by avoiding any appearance of interference.
When the crisis first broke over the peace plan, Secretary of State James Baker announced that a high level State Department delegation would go to Jerusalem to examine whether the initiative was still feasible and warranted American support.
But officials in Washington said Friday that the White House reversed its decision, because such a mission might be construed as meddling.
(See separate story.)
Shamir is trying to reassure his Labor partners that “nothing at all has changed” since the Likud Central Committee meeting on July 6 overwhelmingly endorsed principles set forth by Shamir’s hawkish rivals, Ariel Sharon, David Levy and Yitzhak Moda’i.
Those ministers made no secret of their desire to kill the Shamir plan altogether. Failing that, they sought to amend it to death.
The plan calls for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to choose delegates with whom Israel would negotiate a five-year interim period of self rule for the territories.
In the third year, negotiations would start, presumably with the same elected representatives, to decide the final status of the territories. on the right of return, he has called for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, thereby appearing to abandon aspirations to win back all of what is now Israel.
Since Arafat announced in Algiers last December that he recognizes Israel’s right to exist and renounces terrorism, Fatah has refrained from sending infiltration squads from southern Lebanon to penetrate Israel’s borders.
The more extreme groups have stepped up such activities in recent months.
But Fatah squads responsible for attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as one inside Israel proper, have been apprehended recently.