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News Analysis: Resignation of Likud’s Top Moderate Unlikely to Affect the Peace Process

April 1, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Though Foreign Minister David Levy’s resignation would remove the government’s most ardent and dogged advocate of the peace process from direct participation in it, the prospect has caused scarcely a ripple in diplomatic circles here.

Levy announced he is resigning from office, though not from the Likud, in a bitter speech Sunday to supporters in Herzliya, underlining his differences with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and grievances against the party leadership.

According to Israeli law, he must submit his letter of resignation at a Cabinet meeting and it takes effect 48 hours thereafter.

The next Cabinet session is on Sunday, which gives Levy and Shamir adequate time to patch up their quarrel. But that seemed increasingly unlikely as the week wore on.

Levy said Tuesday that if he could, he would submit his resignation earlier. He reiterated his intention to quit in an evening television interview in which he sharply criticized Shamir’s attitude in their dispute.

Levy seems to have been angered by Shamir’s reported comment Monday that his threat to quit the government was “a joke.” If the prime minister feels that way, he either will not or cannot take the necessary steps to heal their rift, Levy said.

Bilateral peace talks between Israel and the Arabs are scheduled to resume in Washington on April 27. A subsequent round will be held in or near the Middle East, a venue Israel has sought since the peace talks opened in Madrid last October.

But diplomats and pundits seem certain that nothing of any substance will be accomplished before the Israeli parliamentary elections on June 23.


U.S. Ambassador William Harrop said as much, though with diplomatic finesse, when he spoke Tuesday of his sadness over Levy’s imminent departure.

He praised the foreign minister’s “statesmanlike” contributions. But he added that the peace process would continue unimpaired by Levy’s absence because it reflects the collective will of the Israeli nation.

That may be one reason for the apparent lethargy over Levy’s impending plans. Another may be that even with Levy in office, Shamir himself kept pretty much in charge of the bilateral phase of the peace talks.

His two top aides, Yossi Ben-Aharon, director of the Prime Minister’s Office, and Elyakim Rubinstein, the Cabinet secretary, head the most important Israeli delegations.

Ben-Aharon leads the Israeli team negotiating with Syria, while Rubinstein heads negotiations with the joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.

Moreover, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Zalman Shoval, is known to be reporting directly to the prime minister, in addition to his official reports to the Foreign Ministry.

Likud Knesset member Reuven Rivlin, a Levy supporter, complained to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that the envoy had not been reporting fully to the foreign minister.

Levy himself soft-pedaled the charge, though coalition and opposition members of the committee understood what was implied. The foreign minister, in fact, said in his Sunday speech and subsequently that he was resigning partly because his dispute with Shamir was affecting his implementation of policy.

It remains to be seen whether Shamir names anyone to replace Levy before the elections or temporarily assumes the Foreign Ministry portfolio himself.

Levy got some accolades Tuesday from Meretz, the new left-wing bloc in the Knesset, consisting of the Citizens Rights Movement, Mapam and the Center-Shinui Movement.

Yair Tsaban of Mapam and Yossi Sarid of the CRM, both members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, spoke at a foreign policy briefing Levy said would be his last.

They praised the foreign minister for his relative restraint and relative moderation in the councils of government.

Sarid warned that “the government without Levy will be even more adventurist and irresponsible.”

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