JERUSALEM (Feb. 20)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Cabinet reshuffle Tuesday drew an angry blast from David Levy, a powerful figure in Likud’s Herut faction and an ally of hard-liner Ariel Sharon.
Shamir named Moshe Nissim, a minister without portfolio, to be minister of industry and trade, succeeding Sharon, whose resignation became effective Tuesday.
The prime minister appointed David Magen, a Herut Knesset member, to the Cabinet without portfolio and elevated Transport Minister Moshe Katsav to the Inner Cabinet, the government’s top policy-making forum, where he replaces Sharon.
Levy was furious, mainly because his close supporter, Herut Knesset member Eliahu Ben-Elissar, was passed over for a Cabinet appointment.
In a stinging public statement, Levy charged that the prime minister made the appointments without consulting him, even though he is deputy chairman of Herut and a deputy prime minister.
Levy said he learned about the new appointments and promotions from the news media and that they cast doubt on “the need or point of further meetings between me and the premier.”
He was referring to the several conciliatory meetings Levy has had with Shamir since Sharon announced his resignation at a stormy meeting of the Likud Central Committee on Feb. 12.
CONFLICTING PROMISES CLAIMED
Ben-Elissar, who is chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told reporters that the prime minister had promised him firmly in January 1989 that the first Cabinet seat to become available would be his.
But Magen, a former mayor of Kiryat Gat in the Negev, said Shamir made him the same promise last March. Magen, a longtime Sharon supporter, has moved to a more moderate, centrist position in Herut over the years.
Nissim, a leader of Likud’s Liberal Party wing, is a bitter foe of Economics and Planning Minister Yitzhak Moda’i, a fellow Liberal who joined forces with Sharon and Levy to oppose Shamir’s policies.
By contrast, Nissim has been a loyal supporter of Shamir’s during Likud’s frequent internal upheavals and has been mentioned as a possible successor.