JERUSALEM (Dec. 2)
An announcement this week that Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Zalman Shoval, will end his tour of duty Feb. 5 puts an end to an embarrassing spate of reports surrounding his departure date.
Shoval will be succeeded by Itamar Rabinovich, a former rector of Tel Aviv University and chief Israeli negotiator in the peace talks with Syria.
Shoval had been openly fighting with the Foreign Ministry — some reports had it with the foreign minister, Shimon Peres — over his recall date.
He has now apparently won his wish to stay on for the inauguration of Bill Clinton over the reported plans by Rabin and Peres to have a new envoy in place as a new U.S. administration takes office.
Shoval himself, in a newspaper interview, hinted at poor relations with Peres, who has been both a longtime political colleague and a rival.
Peres and Shoval both belonged to David Ben-Gurion’s Rafi Party in the 1960s. Peres and the majority of members later went back to their mother-party, Labor, while the rump of Rafi drifted steadily to the right and eventually merged into the Likud. Shoval became a Likud Knesset member and his appointment as ambassador was a Likud political appointment.
In an official statement issued by his office, Rabin expressed “appreciation for Shoval’s work as ambassador and for his contribution over the years to the close ties between the two countries.”
Meanwhile, another much-reported appointment, that of Shlomo Ben-Ami as Cabinet secretary, appears to have run into snags and is not, at present, being implemented.
Ben-Ami, who recently wound up a highly successful term as Israeli ambassador to Spain, was offered the Cabinet secretaryship by Rabin with the enthusiastic support of Peres.
He let it be known that he was negotiating terms, including his insistence on serving as chief government spokesman on the peace process.
According to the Labor-linked newspaper Davar, the incumbent Cabinet secretary, Elyakim Rubinstein, who is also head of the peace negotiations with Jordan and the Palestinians, did not take kindly to the notion, and made his opinion known.
The upshot is that Ben-Ami may withdraw, while Rubinstein will stay on, for the time being, as both Cabinet secretary and as chief negotiator.
Earlier this week, Rubinstein led his negotiating team with Jordan on a field trip to the Arava south of the Dead Sea, where they surveyed tracts of land claimed by Jordan.
Moshav and kibbutz farmers told the team that those areas, some of which they themselves cultivate, ought not to stand in the way of a peace treaty. Others maintained Jordan could be compensated in other ways.