JERUSALEM (Jul. 25)
Senior officials of Israel’s Likud bloc are lobbying their right-wing coalition partners not to bolt the government over Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s apparent intention to accept U.S. proposals for convening peace talks with the Arabs.
Shamir has been assured he will receive support from the opposition Labor Party in the event that the right-wing parties decide to leave the government, as they have threatened.
But the Likud would rather maintain a coalition with its natural allies on the right than be forced to enter another national unity government with the more dovish Labor Party.
Likud officials focused Thursday on Tehiya, whose three-member Knesset faction has already recommended secession to the party’s secretariat.
They contend that to participate in the peace conference the United States is trying to organize would lead inevitably to yielding territory. Tehiya advocates annexing the territories.
Senior Likud officials deny that participating in a peace conference means eventually giving up land. Leaving the government now would be premature, they say, even if their fears are credible.
Likud officials pointed out that Shamir has neither deviated from his basic terms nor given the United States a final reply. In any event, they say, the only issue now on the agenda is direct, unconditional talks with Syria, which are within the guidelines adopted by the government.
Finance Minister Yitzhak Moda’i offered further assurances Thursday. The Americans have not yet supplied Israel with information on their “entire peace package,” so Israel is under no pressure to respond, he said. He added that no one would think of abandoning the Golan Heights “under any condition or any circumstances.”
Tehiya leader Yuval Ne’eman, who sits in the Cabinet but not the Knesset, has apparently been persuaded. He said Thursday he is convinced that “reports of a change in the government’s position are false and therefore there is no need to quit.”
But the head of Tehiya’s Knesset delegation, Geula Cohen, said Wednesday she was certain the party would leave the coalition.
Even if Tehiya and other right-wing parties defect, Likud can count on the Labor Party.
“We will support the Likud in the 1991 peace process, just as we did in 1977,” party Chairman Shimon Peres said Thursday. In 1977, Menachem Begin’s Likud government began the peace process with Egypt.
Peres denied rumors that Labor was offering to revive the national unity government, which foundered last year in a dispute over negotiations with the Palestinians.
The rumor started with Tourism Minister Gideon Patt, who said a ranking Laborite — not Peres — had broached the idea with him. He said he turned it down because it was Labor that broke the previous unity coalition.
Political pundits say, however, that if the right-wing parties leave the government, Likud may have no choice but to renew its uneasy ties with Labor.