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October 10, 1986 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-10-10

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Shamir's Turn

Continued from Page 1

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Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir are about to perform one
of the most bizarre acts in Israel's political history.

liamentary majority in the
July 1984 election.
In an exquisitely balanced
coalition agreement, cabinet
seats were equally appor-
tioned between the parties.
But the centerpiece of the
pact was rotation, a Sol-
omonic formula that involved
cutting the baby in half.
Peres, it was agreed, would
be prime minister for the
first half of the government's
life, switching roles with
Shamir, vice prime minister
and foreign minister, on Oct.
14, 1986, for the remainder of
its term.
In agreeing to rotate the
leadership, Israel's politicians
were embarking on un-
charted territory. The only
certainty, according to both
the pundits and practitioners
of Israeli politics, was that
the government would fall
before rotation.
The Labor leader would not
— could not — simply hand
over the reins of office to the
The most commonly held
scenario was that Peres
would consolidate his leader-
ship and then, a respectable
time before rotation, contrive
to break up the coalition and
bring down the government.
The primary consideration
was to find an electorally ac-
ceptable issue on which to
make the break and contain
the political damage. Peres
could not, after all, be seen to
be blatantly flouting a con-
tractual agreement, even one
which did not carry the
weight of law.
But as each dispute flared
into crisis, tearing at the
fragile coalition fabric and
threatening to bring down
the government, Peres re-
sisted the strident calls from
within his own party to end
the "marriage."
It would be misleading to
speak of high moral princi-
ples in explaining why the
unhappy and unnatural

union has lasted so long. The
reason, more likely, is to be
found in a careful reading of
the opinion polls. True, Peres
is riding high, but his party
has failed to capitalize on his
dramatic transformation. At
the same time, the Likud has
shown signs of serious slip-
If the polls are to be be-
lieved, fresh elections today
would not produce a result
very different from the
stalemate that led the two
parties into their current
predicament. Neither party
can yet be sure of success.
Peres, the object of ridicule
and contempt among a large
minority of Israelis when he
entered the prime minister's
office, swiftly set about the
business of leadership.
Despite the huge ideologi-
cal gulf which separates
Labor and Likud — they are
unable even to agree where
the country's international
frontiers should run — he
carefully defined areas of
consensus with his new
Likud coalition partners.
His steady, measured ap-
proach to the country's man-
ifold economic, military and
diplomatic problems calmed
the national passions which
had become dangerously
overheated during seven
years of roller-coasting Likud
rule. The polls soon showed
Peres shedding the old
tricky-dealer, perennial-loser
The new Peres constructed
his leadership on the basis of
solid achievement combined
with a succession of high-
profile, high-wire diplomatic
encounters. He extricated Is-
raeli forces from their disas-
trous campaign in Lebanon,
introduced a draconian au-
sterity program that averted
an economic catastrophe and
opened the door to - improved
relations with Africa, Asia
and the Eastern bloc.
While few of the dramatic


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