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Likud Trying to Heal Internal Rift As Central Committee Session Nears

February 5, 1990
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Efforts to heal the rift in the Likud bloc continued over the weekend, against a fast-approaching deadline.

The rival camps, headed respectively by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Minister of Industry and Trade Ariel Sharon, are battling to control the agenda of the pivotal Central Committee meeting taking place Wednesday.

At stake is Shamir’s peace initiative and his diplomatic efforts with the United States and Egypt to set up an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

If Sharon has his way, the agenda will be an item-by-item referendum on Shamir’s policies. The hard-line minister hopes the party’s rank and file will reject them, including Shamir’s plan for Palestinian elections in the administered territories.

Shamir will deliver a major policy speech to the Central Committee. He insists that a debate and a vote to endorse his speech must be the only items on the agenda.

Shamir’s closest ally in Likud, Foreign Minister Moshe Arens, said in an army radio interview Sunday that there could be “no compromise” on that.

But Arens indicated the prime minister’s supporters were open to mediation efforts being pursued by Michael Kleiner, a Likud Knesset member.

They took comfort, meanwhile, from an opinion issued Sunday by Likud’s official legal adviser, Isser Lubotsky, that the Central Committee itself should have the final say on the agenda it adopts.


Shamir and Arens believe they could win a majority of the 3,000 or so votes.

But they may encounter resistance if the dissident camp succeeds in packing the Central Committee session with its supporters.

Sharon is issuing new membership cards by the scores in a manner that could lead to forgery and fraud, some of Shamir’s followers charge.

The committee has been expanded. Likud’s Liberal Party wing decided recently that it was time to join the Herut Central Committee to form a united Likud Central Committee.

The Liberal Party leader, Economics and Planning Minister Yitzhak Moda’i, is allied with Sharon against the prime minister’s peace initiative.

So is Construction and Housing Minister David Levy, who is suggesting that the five senior Likud ministers form a “policy committee” to decide agenda issues.

Although Shamir and Arens would be outnumbered by their opponents, the foreign minister said Sunday that the idea “can be talked about” in principle.

The Labor side of the coalition government, meanwhile, is deliberately keeping a low profile, to allow the media spotlight to focus exclusively on the embarrassing feuding in the rival party.

“Every party has its problems,” Vice Premier Shimon Peres, the Labor Party leader, remarked after Sunday’s Cabinet meeting.

But Labor leaders continued to stress privately that if the hard line wins in Likud, it would effectively mean the end of the peace process and therefore the end of the unity government.

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