Likud Upset by White House Hesitancy, Uneasy About Course of Peace Process

The government easily defeated no-confidence motions by three right-wing opposition factions Wednesday. But there was considerable uneasiness in Likud ranks over the course that Israel’s U.S.-backed peace initiative is taking.

It was aggravated by the apparent hesitancy of the White House to invite Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to meet with President Bush when he is in the United States next week.

Bush’s comment at a nationally televised news conference Tuesday that he was “not sure” Shamir was coming to Washington, but that he is “certainly willing to consider it,” seemed much more embarrassing to the government than the hostile motions from its right flank.

Sponsored by the Tehiya, Tsomet and Moledet parties, the motions were rejected by a vote of 37-5, with 10 abstention. But some Likud members declined to vote, and many were absent from the chamber, as were a goodly number of Laborites.

It was hard to say how many of the Likud absentees were protesting Shamir’s acceptance of U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s five-point proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, with-out ironclad guarantees that the Palestine Liberation Organization would in no way participate.

Environmental Protection Minister Ronni Milo, who spoke for the government, insisted that Israel would not participate in any dialogue if the United States or Egypt sought to involve the PLO.

Shamir’s critics say he should not have accepted Baker’s points without making that a condition. Israel asked only for “assurances” from the United States.

Nevertheless, Washington is believed by observers here to be suspicious of Israel’s motivations in seeking the assurances, some of which would appear to conflict with policy positions enunciated by the United States to the Palestinians and to Egypt, which has offered to host the dialogue.

Shamir, meanwhile, is preparing to fly to the United States next week to attend the annual General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations in Cincinnati. He is said he will come to the United States whether or not he receives an invitation for a White House meeting with Bush.

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