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Knesset to Action Decision by the Cabinet to Transfer Defense Portfolio to Begin

February 14, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Ariel Sharon will cease to be Defense Minister tomorrow if the Knesset, as expected, approves the Cabinet’s decision today to transfer the portfolio to Premier Menachem Begin. The Premier made it clear at the meeting that his tenure would be brief and temporary. He intends to name Moshe Arens, Israel’s Ambassador to Washington, a former leading Likud-Herut Knesset member, to the defense post.

The Cabinet’s decision followed directly from its resolution Thursday night to adopt the inquiry commission’s recommendations, central among which was Sharon’s removal from the defense post. Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir gave his opinion to the ministers today that by leaving defense, Sharon would be fully complying with the commission’s recommendation, even though he is to stay on as a minister.

This opinion is challenged by several academic lawyers on legal grounds of interpretation, and also by the opposition parties on political as well as legal grounds.


But political observers predict with confidence that the Cabinet’s decision will obtain Knesset approve One potential Likud rebel, former minister Yitzhak Berman, has already let it be known that he would endorse the move if the attorney general approved it from a legal-interpretational standpoint.

The same applies to National Religious Party dove Avraham Melamed. A third coalition maverick, Dror Zeigerman (Likud-Liberal) will probably not support the government’s decision — but his defection alone is not enough to endanger the government’s majority.

The government will also face — and probably weather –two non-confidence motions this week, presented by the Hadash (Communists) and by Shinui. Labor is still debating within itself as to the tactical advisability of presenting a non-confidence motion.

Before today’s Cabinet session, Sharon delivered a curt letter to Begin, informing Begin of his decision to “honor the Cabinet’s decision to remove the defense portfolio from my hands.” Sharon added in the letter that he has no intentions of resigning from the Cabinet.


Cabinet sources said the atmosphere was strained. They noted that on Thursday night Sharon had said he would not sit in the Cabinet any more, and had made nasty comments to and about a number of his colleagues.

Some of them took the opportunity today of indulging in some sarcasm themselves at the sight of Sharon going back on his “boycott” so quickly.

Behind the scenes — but not at the Cabinet table — there was also dissatisfaction among some of the ministers at the fact that Sharon had not been gotten rid of altogether. But he is being given powerful support from Tehiya and from ultra-rightists in Herut, and there is a clear danger that if he were to be forced out of the Cabinet altogether the government would lose its coalition majority.

Sharon’s spokesman Uri Dan was cited saying today: “Some people didn’t want him as Chief of Staff–and they got him as Minister of Defense. Now some don’t want him as Minister of Defense — and they will get him back in the future as Prime Minister.”

This evening Begin met alone with Sharon to discuss the hand over of the defense post. He also received, separately, Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, who will complete his term of service in April. The inquiry commission was sharply critical of Eitan for his failure to have ordered the immediate removal of the Phalangist forces from the Shatila and Sabra camps upon his arrival in Beirut on Friday, September 17.

Begin also met with military intelligence chief Gen. Yehoshua Saguy, who was blasted by the panel for “breach of duty incumbent on the director of military intelligence,” and ordered that he be relieved of his post. Israel Radio said Saguy emerged eyed from his meeting with the Premier. The intention, it is understood, is to find Saguy another post within the Israel Defense Force.

Brig. Gen. Amos Yaron, the immediate commander of Israeli forces in Beirut, also castigated by the inquiry panel, will also be offered a senior IDF post that is not a field command. The commission recommended in his case that he not be given a field command for at least three years for his failure a act on the night of September 16 when initial reports of over 300 dead civilians filtered out of the camps and reached him.

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