JERUSALEM (Jan. 4)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir may have saved the Likud-Labor unity coalition government by allowing Ezer Weizman to stay in the Cabinet.
But his compromise with the errant Laborite has aroused the wrath of his chief rivals in the Likud bloc, Ministers Ariel Sharon, David Levy and Yitzhak Moda’i.
They were among the first to congratulate the prime minister for toughness after he summarily fired Weizman at the Dec. 31 Cabinet meeting, for allegedly maintaining contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
But now they are heaping scorn on the 11th-hour deal made Tuesday. Weizman agreed to resign from the prestigious, policy-making Inner Cabinet of 12 senior ministers.
He will, however, retain his Cabinet portfolio as minister of science and development, which has little influence on affairs of state.
The compromise allowed Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the two senior Labor ministers, to save face. Neither they nor their colleagues wanted to break up the government over the firing of Weizman, a political maverick who is not considered to have much of a popular following.
But Peres could hardly have ignored Shamir’s violation of the coalition agreement, which states that the prime minister cannot dismiss a Labor minister without the consent of the vice premier.
A number of political analysts viewed the compromise as strengthening Shamir and further weakening Labor.
ENDED WITH A ‘SCANDAL’
But according to Levy, a deputy premier who is minister of construction and housing, Shamir’s compromise was a serious blow to Likud. It gave Labor a “recipe” to beat Likud in the future, he charged.
Levy stressed that he and his associates were not parties to that “unfortunate compromise,” adding that what began “like a drama” ended “with a scandal.”
That is symptomatic of a situation in which part of the Likud’s leadership has not been privy to information and decisions, he said.
Sharon, the fiery minister of industry and trade, contended that Shamir’s handling of the Weizman crisis gave legitimacy to the PLO. He said it exposed “a weak performance under pressure” by the prime minister and a flawed decision-making process.
Sharon, Levy and Moda’i, who is minister of economics and planning, met Thursday to discuss the situation. They decided to try again to convene the Likud Central Committee to impose constraints on Shamir’s conduct of foreign policy, especially his peace initiative, which the three ministers oppose.
The Prime Minister’s Office said the critics failed to appreciate that Weizman is no longer in the Inner Cabinet and that a clear message was sent to the world that Israel will never negotiate with the PLO.