JERUSALEM (Jul. 23)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir delivered a stinging rebuff to Likud party hard-liners Sunday, as he convinced both Labor and Likud members of the Cabinet to reaffirm his peace initiative.
The Cabinet voted 21-4 to reaffirm the peace plan “with out additions or amendments.” The Cabinet further resolved that it “will act in accordance with this peace initiative, which is binding upon the Cabinet and its members.”
Sunday’s vote seems to resolve the crisis within Israel’s unity coalition government that arose of hard-line conditions to the initiative on July 5.
Labor had threatened to dissolve the unity government if the conditions were to be considered amendments to the peace plan, which the Cabinet formally approved May 14.
Voting against the decision Sunday were the three Likud ministers who instigated the effort to add tough conditions to the peace plan: Industry and Trade Minister Ariel Sharon, Construction and Housing Minister David Levy, and Economies and Planning Minister Yitzhak Moda’i
Also voting against the Cabinet’s decision to reaffirm the peace plan was Science and Development Minister Ezer Weizman of Labor, who once again called for direct talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Another Labor dove, Minister-Without-Port-folio Raphael Edri, abstained.
LEVY CONCEDES TACTICAL DEFEAT
Sharon and Levy were reportedly passive as the Cabinet considered the agreement, which had apparently been sewn up between the two parties before the vote.
Mada’i raised the legal objection that the Cabinet was barred from voting on a previously adopted decision, but Shamir brushed it aside.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, Levy seemed to concede a tactical defeat for those who see the initiative as a danger to Israel. But he added, ominously,” We shall yet see whether the Likud’s (Central Committee) decision has been erased.”
Ehud Olmert, a Cabinet minister without portfolio who is a close adviser to Shamir, argued after the meeting that Shamir and the majority of Likud ministers had not contravened the conditions adopted by the Central Committee.
Among those conditions, swallowed by Shamir as the price for maintaining unity within Likud, was one barring Arab residents of East Jerusalem from voting or running in the Palestinian elections proposed in the initiative.
The conditions did not change the original peace initiative, said Olmert. Instead, when the plan becomes operative, “we shall then try to persuade Labor” to make the changes, he said.
Peres, addressing the same point, said he hoped that when the time came to implement the peace initiative, there would be a Cabinet majority backing Labor’s position that East Jerusalemites be allowed to vote.