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Rabin Says Peace Deadlock Threatens U.S. Aid to Israel, but Shamir Disagrees

January 23, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is disputing Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s somber assessment of the mood in Washington.

The Laborite defense chief, who met with Secretary of State James Baker and other top U.S. officials there last week, reported to the Cabinet on Sunday that talk of cutting aid to Israel stems directly from the “dismal state of the peace process.”

Shamir insists it is not so.

Israelis were chilled when Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) suggested in a New York Times op-ed piece on Jan. 16 that U.S. aid to the five largest recipients be cut 5 percent to provide more help to emerging democracies in Eastern Europe and Panama.

Israel, which gets $3 billion annually in military and economic assistance grants, is the largest single beneficiary. Egypt comes in second place with $2.3 billion.

According to the daily newspaper Ha’aretz, Rabin told his Cabinet colleagues that Dole’s proposal was not his alone and hinted that it has the support of President Bush.

The defense minister blamed the idea on a sense in Washington that Israel is not doing enough to move the stalled peace process forward. He said that is a feeling now shared by Israel’s oldest and best friends in the U.S. capital.

Shamir flatly contradicted Rabin in an appearance Monday before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He insisted Dole’s views are strictly his own and do not reflect the drift of administration policy.

“We have felt no change” in U.S.-Israeli relations, Shamir told reporters afterward.


Secretary Baker is trying to arrange a meeting with the Egyptian and Israeli foreign ministers to hammer out, once and for all, the terms of an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue that Egypt has offered to host in Cairo.

The three-way meeting will not take place in January, as had been expected. And while there is hope for a February meeting, no date has been set.

The main issue blocking progress is the composition of the Palestinian delegation that would negotiate with Israel over the terms of Israel’s proposal for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Labor Party is more flexible on this than Shamir’s Likud bloc, which wants to ensure that the Palestine Liberation Organization does not play even an indirect role in the selection of the delegates.

Israel’s four most senior ministers, Shamir and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens of Likud, and Rabin and Vice Premier Shimon Peres of Labor, communicated their respective and presumably divergent positions to Washington last week.

As a result, Shamir’s powerful rivals in Likud have accused the prime minister of reneging on a promise that all diplomatic traffic dealing with the peace effort in Washington would be subject to prior approval by the Inner Cabinet.

The Inner Cabinet, the coalition government’s top policy-making body, consists of six senior Likud ministers and six from Labor.

One of the Likud members, Construction and Housing Minister David Levy, claimed that messages sent to Baker by Shamir and Arens last week were known by Peres and Rabin, but not by the Inner Cabinet.

“How did it happen that the entire leadership has been outflanked, ignored?” Levy asked in a radio interview Monday.

That complaint is one element of the showdown expected between Shamir and his rivals when Likud’s Central Committee convenes Feb. 7.

Shamir declared Sunday that he would seek an unequivocal vote of confidence from the Likud rank and file on his policies and leadership as head of the government and of the party.

On Monday, Shamir went a step further, declaring that in the “hypothetical event” that he fails to obtain a majority vote of confidence, he would have no choice but to relinquish the office of prime minister and leadership of Likud.

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