Beilin Plan Gets Cairo’s Ear but Cold Shoulder from Labor

Labor Knesset member Yossi Beilin flew to Cairo on Tuesday, further enraging harder-line elements within his party.

Beilin was invited to the Egyptian capital by Osama el-Baz, a top adviser to President Hosni Mubarak, after proposing last week that Israel voluntarily withdraw from the Gaza Strip and let it evolve into a Palestinian state, which one day could include the West Bank as well.

Micha Harish, the Labor Party’s secretary general, accused Beilin of “destroying the party.” Another group of Laborites, led by Knesset member Michael Bar-Zohar, warned Beilin he may have no future in the party.

Harish said he suspected that Beilin, a protege of party Chairman Shimon Peres, is planning to bolt Labor and set up a new political movement.

His position parallels that of Shlomo Lahat, the Likud mayor of Tel Aviv, who stunned the governing party by announcing his support for a Palestinian state on the prime time news Saturday night.

But unlike Lahat, who has a strong constituency and is immensely popular, Beilin’s position derives from his closeness to Peres.

He was political director of the Foreign Ministry when Peres was foreign minister in the 1980s and deputy minister of finance when Peres was finance minister until March, when the Likud-Labor unity government collapsed.

Peres has not commented on Beilin’s proposals. But he observed there is no rule against thinking or coming up with ideas that are contrary to party orthodoxy.

“There are those in Likud, too, who publicly advocate a Palestinian state,” Peres said, referring to Lahat.

Beilin said his plan was the result of months of intense discussion within a dovish faction of the Labor Party called the Mashov group.

Another member of the group, Knesset member Avrum Burg, was also invited to Cairo by el-Baz, but declined to accept.

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