JERUSALEM (Sep. 21)
The Labor-Likud coalition crisis over Egypt’s intervention in the Israeli peace initiative is likely to mark time for two or three weeks, until some of the principal players return from abroad.
But that didn’t prevent Likud leaders from lashing out Thursday against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who promoted his terms for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Israel Television.
As Likud saw it, Mubarak was appealing to the Israeli people over the heads of their government to tailor an Israeli peace initiative to Egyptian ideas.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has flatly rejected the Egyptian 10-point plan and is at odds with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a Laborite, for having gone to Cairo on Monday to discuss it with Mubarak.
On a visit to Jaffa on Thursday, Shamir told reporters he could not believe Mubarak expected an answer from the people of Israel over the government.
“Things are different here from Egypt. Israel is a democracy and the people trust the government, because otherwise it would not have survived,” Shamir said.
Other Likud leaders were even more vociferous. “We do not need Mubarak’s preaching,” declared Yitzhak Moda’i, the minister of economics and planning. “Israel will look after her own interests.”
Moda’i and fellow Likud hawks Ariel Sharon and David Levy are planning to convene the Likud Central Committee in special session to rally opposition, not only to Mubarak’s proposals, but to Shamir’s entire peace initiative.
MUST HAVE PLO’S ‘GREEN LIGHT’
Mubarak stated in his television message that the initiative will fail unless the Israeli government pursues peace with greater vigor. He called on the Israeli people to pressure the government for more intensive involvement in the peace process.
Mubarak thought the national unity government should be preserved because a coalition crisis in Jerusalem would waste precious time.
Israel should agree to include exiled Palestinians in the negotiations because without their participation, there would be no negotiations, Mubarak said.
He urged Israelis to “stop banging your heads against the wall. Don’t you know that without a green light from the Palestine Liberation Organization, residents of the territories will not negotiate with you?”
Likud has already stated it will never allow Palestinian deportees to return, much less negotiate with them. It also remains adamant that Israel will have nothing to do with the PLO under any circumstances.
The Labor Party believes Likud adamancy is ruining Israel’s peace initiative. Labor is willing to consider the Egyptian points as the basis for elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
On Thursday, Rabin defended his visit to Mubarak, saying that for the coming weeks, he would fight hard to persuade the Likud of the validity of his position.
Speaking before the Labor Central Committee in Tel Aviv, Rabin ridiculed the Likud’s charge that Labor favors talks with the PLO.
“This is from the same people who actually made an agreement with the PLO in South Lebanon in 1981,” Rabin said, his voice thick with scorn.
He said he was advocating talks not with the PLO, but with a Palestinian delegation that would be composed of delegates “70 to 100 percent” from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with perhaps “one or two deportees.”
Most political pundits believe a showdown between the coalition partners is inevitable. But it will have to await the return of two ranking ministers, who are in the United States for the next few weeks.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who heads the Labor Party and is also finance minister, is on a fund-raising trip. Foreign Minister Moshe Arens of Likud, a close ally of Shamir, is in New York for the U.N. General Assembly’s 44th session.