JERUSALEM (Apr. 6)
Amid continued criticism of the concessions made by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to David Levy, the Likud moved to incorporate Levy supporters into its election campaign.
The concessions were made to avert the foreign minister’s threatened resignation less than three months before the June 23 national elections.
Meanwhile in the opposition Labor Party, key slots in its election staff were being filled amid tension between the camps of party leader Yitzhak Rabin and former leader Shimon Peres.
Shamir loyalist Haim Landau was heard at Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv complaining bitterly of a sellout as Knesset members Reuven Rivlin and Michael Kleiner, members of the Levy camp, assumed senior positions on Likud’s election campaign staff Monday.
Two other staunch Shamir backers, Health Minister Ehud Olmert and Justice Minister Dan Meridor, are also known to entertain strong reservations. But they are keeping their criticism muted.
Shamir’s closest ally in the government, Defense Minister Moshe Arens, was busy Monday denying media reports that he had accused the prime minister of “cracking” under pressure from Levy.
Shamir himself denied Monday that he had “surrendered under pressure.” He insisted that he had not agreed to a “party within the party,” which he said he would not tolerate in Likud.
PARTY MAKING PAINFUL ADJUSTMENTS
Nevertheless, the party apparatus is making painful adjustments to integrate Levy backers into key positions from which they were largely excluded when the Likud Central Committee voted to select the election slate last month.
Levy has been guaranteed the office of foreign minister and deputy premier in any Likud government. He would receive one of the four most senior Cabinet posts if another Likud-Labor unity government is formed after the elections.
In addition, Levy will be allowed to name one minister of his choice, a privilege which has resided hitherto exclusively with the prime minister.
While Likud members were chafing, there were also signs of tension in the Labor Party Monday, as Rabin named hawkish Knesset member Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to head the important information section of the party’s election campaign.
Rabin squelched objections. “I was elected leader and the responsibility rests with me and so does the authority,” he told the party executive.
He said he would hold consultations whenever possible, but not always.
Peres supporters had to grit their teeth and accept Ben-Eliezer’s appointment. But their faction was not shut out. Knesset member Moshe Shahal, a Peres man, was named deputy head of the campaign under the party’s secretary-general, Micha Harish.