Likud Knesset member Ze’ev “Benny” Begin resigned this week as chairman of his party’s information commission in a move reflecting tensions at the top of Israel’s main opposition party.
Sources close to Begin, who is the son of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, cited “ideological differences” between him and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.
Begin ran unsuccessfully against Netanyahu for the Likud leadership before the 1992 elections.
Efforts by Netanyahu and other Likud officials to talk Begin out of quitting failed, and he circulated his resignation letter this week to all the members of the commission – among them many of the Likud’s most prominent Knesset members.
Likud insiders say Begin has been uncomfortable with several of Netanyahu’s policy positions in the wake of last year’s signing of the Palestinian self- rule accord.
In particular, he is said to be unhappy with Netanyahu’s implied acquiescence in the present Labor-led government’s renunciation of any Israeli claim to the Gaza Strip, which fell under Palestinian autonomy in May.
Observers within the Likud said this week that Netanyahu was not too disconcerted by Begin ‘s departure, despite the momentary wave of unpleasant publicity.
They noted that Netanyahu has been urging his party for months to seek a moderate position to capture the country’s swing vote, and in that way fight their way back into power in the 1996 elections.
Begin’s departure, these observers argue, will be widely construed as the action of an unwavering hard-liner refusing to adopt a more pragmatic line.