JERUSALEM (Jan. 25)
As long as there is a peace process, the Likud-Labor coalition government will remain intact, Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Thursday.
Peres, who appeared satisfied with his three-day visit to Egypt that ended Wednesday, spoke in response to critics who accused him of trying to dismantle the government in order to create a narrowly based alternative led by the Labor Party.
He stressed to reporters in Haifa that Labor joined in partnership with Likud primarily for the sake of peace.
“Without the peace process, I don’t see why we need this unusual government,” Peres said.
The criticism that greeted Peres’ return from Cairo was aimed at statements he made there, which underlined Labor’s basic differences with Likud over the peace plan.
Peres said, for example, that he unequivocally favors including two Palestinian deportees in a delegation representing the Palestinian side in a dialogue with Israel, a position adamantly opposed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
Yediot Achronot commented in an editorial Thursday that “what Peres does in Cairo — negotiations which have nothing to do with the guidelines of the government — is neither collegial nor loyal, but it certainly advances the purpose of shortening the life-span of the government.”
Similar criticism emanated from Likud. But Peres also seems to be at odds with his Labor colleague, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Rabin, who was a co-author of the Israeli peace initiative Shamir unveiled last May, seems unhappy that Peres is pressuring Likud.
He told a group of hawkish Knesset members Thursday that as long as the peace process has a chance of success, the national unity government should not be dismantled.
Sources close to Rabin rejected reports circulated by Peres’ aides that the two Labor Party leaders were in full accord on the peace initiative.
Rabin apparently wants to reassure Shamir of his support, as the prime minister approaches a crucial showdown in his own party.
The Likud Central Committee will convene on Feb. 7. Shamir says he will seek a blanket vote of confidence in his policies and leadership.
But he is being pressed by senior Likud ministers who opposed his peace plan from the outset, and who hope the party rank and file will reject it in an item-by-item vote.