Knesset Expected to Approve New Government Led by Peres

Acting Prime Minister Shimon Peres is expected to present a new government before the Knesset for ratification this week.

“I hope that if everything goes as anticipated, we shall bring the new coalition before the Knesset on Wednesday,” he told reporters in Jerusalem last week.

But Peres was tight-lipped about the composition of his new Cabinet.

According to speculation in the Israeli media, Peres will follow the lead of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and retain the dual profolios of prime minister and defense minister.

The move would enable him to oversee the Israeli troop redeployments in the West Bank that are called for under the terms of the recently signed agreement for extending Palestinian autonomy in the region.

Interior Minister Ehud Barak is widely expected to be named foreign minister.

Barak, a former Israel Defense Force chief of staff, fueled rumors that he would get the Foreign Ministry portfolio when he told Israel Radio last week that it was “likely I won’t be interior minister two weeks from now.”

Peres, who was asked to form a new government last week by President Ezer Weizman, refused to comment on the rumors.

“All the reports and rumors have no basis,” he told reporters, adding, “I have not spoken to anyone” about the Cabinet appointments.

Peres said that only on Tuesday night, when he is expected to present the coalition before the Labor Party’s Central Committee for approval, “will everything be known.”

Acceptance of the new government was assured last week when the main opposition Likud Party said it would not oppose Peres’ Cabinet picks.

Political observers have noted that Peres, expected to keep the governing coalition in its current form, will opt to try to include some of the religious parties at a later date.

Peres met last week with Rabbi Yehuda Amital of the Yeshiva Har Etzion in the West Bank, creating some speculation that Peres had asked him to serve as a minister without portfolio in the new government.

But Amital, a leader of Meimad, a religious Zionist group that supports territorial concessions in the name of peace, denied that Peres had offered him a Cabinet position.

The meeting, said Amital, was devoted to finding ways of reconciling different segments of Israeli society in the wake of the Nov. 4 assassination of Rabin.

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