JERUSALEM (Jun. 11)
The Knesset approved Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s new right-wing coalition government late Monday by a vote of 62-57.
Avraham Verdiger of the Agudat Yisrael party abstained from voting, while three other members of the ultra-Orthodox party voted against the government. A fifth Agudah member, Eliezer Mizrachi, supported the government in a separate deal concluded several weeks ago.
Shamir introduced the coalition to the parliament in a speech that combined elements of conciliation toward the Palestinians with what could be construed as an attack on the United States for not ending its dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The Knesset session was tense, and there was bitter heckling from the Labor opposition and counter-heckling from Likud.
Shamir called on the Arab states and the Palestinians in the administered territories to join Israel in peace negotiations.
His speech drew a stinging response from Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, who warned that the new government, said to be the most right-wing in Israel’s history, spelled the end of the peace process.
Shamir, for his part, focused on the PLO as the arch foe of peace. He charged that terrorism and instability in the region were due to the willingness of the United States and the member states of the European Community to have dialogue or relations with the PLO.
He claimed that recognition of the PLO or dialogue with it “encourages terrorism and violence against us,” a direct rebuke to the U.S. administration, which opened a dialogue with the PLO in December 1988.
Shamir said his new government would “stress to the international community that the PLO and peace are a contradiction in terms.”
He also attacked “certain members of the Labor Party who recently voiced support in the media for the ongoing dialogue between the PLO and the United States.”
He asked how they reconciled that with their own purported opposition to Israel-PLO negotiations.
PERES ATTACKS NEW GOVERNMENT
Peres attacked the new government, claiming that in his “heart of hearts” Shamir did not want it. The prime minister knows it “is not the answer to Israel’s problems, but rather adds to them,” the Labor Party leader said.
Peres recalled that Shamir abstained in the vote on the 1978 Camp David accords that led to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, opposed Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 1984 and “foiled the agreement with Hussein” in 1987.
He was referring to an unofficial agreement on negotiations he reached with the Jordanian king when he was foreign minister.
Peres also accused Shamir of thwarting the peace process this year, leading to the breakup of the unity government.
Although the outcome of the confidence vote had been uncertain until the end, most observers had predicted Shamir’s government would squeeze through.
Its last-minute problems flowed mainly from Likud members disgruntled over not being included in the new Cabinet.
Likud made an energetic bid to win the support of Agudat Yisrael, the only religious party not committed to supporting it. Shamir still hopes the party will join the government, thereby increasing his precariously narrow parliamentary majority.
Following the vote Monday night, a list of the Cabinet assignments was released by the government.
As expected, David Levy will be foreign minister and Moshe Arens minister of defense.
Levy and Moshe Nissim, who is the new minister of industry and trade, were also given the title of deputy premier. Levy had sought the higher rank of vice premier.
Shamir’s decision in the award of the largely honorific titles was apparently made to keep Levy somewhat at arm’s length and to reward Nissim for what insiders say was his critical role in thwarting Labor’s effort during March and April to set up a government with the support of the ultra-Orthodox parties.
Another major appointment was Ariel Sharon as minister of construction and housing, with special authority for the settlement of Soviet immigrants. Sharon has pushed hard for expanding settlements in the administered territories.