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Two Ministers Say They Will Quit, Putting Shamir Regime in Jeopardy

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is trying to keep the always shaky edifice of his narrowly based coalition government from crumbling. But by Wednesday evening, its fate seemed sealed.

Science and Energy Minister Yuval Ne’eman announced on television that his far-right Tehiya party has resolved to quit the government. He said he would submit his resignation to the Cabinet at its regular weekly meeting Sunday.

Rehavam Ze’evi, a minister without portfolio who heads the extremist Moledet faction, said earlier that he would ask his party Thursday to endorse his plan to quit the Cabinet this Sunday.

Shamir’s hawkish coalition partners have been threatening to quit the government if Israel’s peace talks with the Palestinians turn to substantive matters.

The issue came to a head over whether the Israeli negotiating team in Washington had discussed proposals for Palestinian autonomy.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the Palestinians had submitted a two-page autonomy proposal to the Israelis on Tuesday.

Shamir insists nothing substantive has been put on the table. He showed his colleagues a document submitted this week by Elyakim Rubinstein, who heads the Israeli delegation talking to the Palestinians. Shamir said its contents amount to nothing more than agenda proposals.

But the Likud leader apparently failed to convince the two hard-line ministers.

SHAMIR MIGHT SUBMIT RESIGNATION

Tehiya and Moledet oppose the talks in principle and are convinced that autonomy in any form would lead to a Palestinian state.

The defections of both parties would leave Shamir’s coalition with 59 Knesset mandates, less than a majority in the 120-member parliament.

Some politicians speculated that the prime minister would submit his resignation to President Chaim Herzog early next week, before his government can be unseated by a scheduled no-confidence vote introduced by the opposition.

Though Shamir would remain prime minister of a caretaker government, such a development could freeze the peace process for an indefinite period. In some political circles, it is believed that is exactly Shamir’s intention.

The left-wing Citizens Rights Movement, Mapam party and Center-Shinui Movement have urged the opposition not to cooperate with Tehiya and Moledet to bring down the government, thereby enabling Shamir to “duck out of the peace talks.”

Accordingly, they prevailed on the Labor Party to delay its no-confidence motion, scheduled for debate next Monday.

Political sources meanwhile saw little chance of an alternative government or transitional government under anyone but Shamir.

The remaining question is how soon elections can be held. They are required by law not later than November 1992. If the government falls now, elections most likely will be held in June.

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