JERUSALEM (Mar. 30)
There is no valid reason for David Levy to resign as deputy premier and foreign minister, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Monday.
The move is “entirely unnecessary, unnatural and should not be,” he told reporters in Migdal Ha’emek. “He should not go ahead with the resignation. He has no cause to do so.”
The comments were Shamir’s first public reaction to Levy’s announcement Sunday that he would quit the government, though not the Likud party.
Levy’s declaration to several hundred supporters in Herzliya culminated weeks of negotiations with Shamir that apparently failed to resolve his grievances against the party leadership.
The prime minister nevertheless appears anxious to persuade Levy to change his mind.
But while he seems genuinely interested in retaining the Moroccan-born foreign minister in any new government he might form after the June 23 Knesset elections, Shamir clearly does not want a faction in Likud loyal to Levy.
That was evident from his remarks to reporters. The prime minister revealed that he had previously promised Levy that he would retain his present office under any future circumstances.
That implied a promise that Levy would be deputy premier and foreign minister whether Likud heads a new coalition after the elections or shares power with Labor in a unity government.
It also implied that Levy, not Defense Minister Moshe Arens, would retain the No. 2 spot in the Likud hierarchy, even though he was dropped to fourth place — behind Arens and Housing Minister Ariel Sharon — when the Likud Central Committee selected the party’s election slate March 1 and 2.
A WEEK TO RECONSIDER
Political observers are now speculating about whether Levy will go through with his resignation threat.
Under Israeli law, a resigning minister must submit a formal letter to the prime minister during a Cabinet session, after which 48 hours must elapse before the resignation takes effect.
The Cabinet meets again next Sunday, allowing a week for Levy to back down or for Shamir to come to terms with him.
Some political pundits predict that Shamir will have to soften his stance toward Levy as the week wears on to avoid a full-scale split.
The prime minister must reason that if Levy, borne by the momentum of his own rhetoric, goes ahead with his resignation Sunday, the next step could be his secession from the party and creation of a new list.
Even if a separate Levy list took only two or three Knesset seats from Likud, that could lose the election for Likud.
It is therefore possible that if Levy resigns Sunday and subsequently breaks with Likud, Shamir might try to entice him back during April and early May, before the final election lists are sealed and submitted to the Central Election Committee.
According to this scenario, if he feels Likud’s prospects are seriously threatened by Levy’s secession, Shamir might accede to some of his demands.