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January 12, 1990 - Image 39

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-01-12

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Israel's defense minister
Yitzhak Rabin achieved
several important goals.


Israel Correspondent


s Israeli political
scandals go, last
week's Weizman Af-
fair was mercifully brief.
On Sunday morning,
Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir accused Weizman of
conducting secret talks with
the Palestine Liberation
Organization and fired him
from his post as Minister of
Science in the Government
of National Unity.
On Sunday night, Labor
Party leader Shimon Peres
announced that if Weizman
were not reinstated, Labor
would leave the government,
thus bringing it down. On
Monday, Defense Minister
Yitzhak Rabin brokered a
deal, and on Tuesday,
Weizman and Shamir ac-
cepted it — the Science Min-
ister agreed to leave the in-
ner-cabinet, which deals
with foreign policy and
defense matters, while
Shamir allowed him to stay
on as a member of the
Following the compromise,
things returned to what has
become normal unity
government. Weizman flew
to Moscow, where he was
treated as a hero by the
Soviet leadership. Shamir
appeared on "Moked," the
Israeli "Meet the Press,"
and pronounced himself
satisfied with the deal. Peres
and Rabin went back to their
duties at the Ministries of
Finance and Defense.
Despite the appearance of
business as usual, all four of
the principals in last week's
drama are well aware that it
altered the political balance
of power in the government
and the country. Shamir,

Weizman and Peres emerged
from the 48-hour affair as
losers; the big winner was
When Shamir first moved
against Weizman, it ap-
peared that he had engi-
neered a brilliant maneuver.
By boldly confronting the
Science Minister with
evidence of behind the
scenes contacts with the
PLO, Shamir asserted
leadership and forced the
Labor Party to choose bet-
ween supporting Weizman's
dealings with the Palesti-
nian enemy, or allowing one
of the party's senior figures
to be fired for what
amounted to treason.
Shamir, however, com-
mitted a cardinal political
sin — he failed to count
votes. It soon emerged that,
should the government fall
as a result of the crisis,
Labor had a good chance to
establish a narrow coalition
with the Orthodox parties.
Faced with the prospect of
losing his job, Shamir back-
ed down. His agreement to
reinstate Weizman made a
mockery of his accusation
that Weizman was a traitor
("Now I know how to become
a cabinet minister," quipped
Labor MK Chaim Ramon.
"All I have to do is talk to
the PLO."); and gave rise to
charges in the Likud that
the Prime Minister is in-
decisive and weak.
"The affair demonstrates
that Shamir can't stand up
under pressure," said party
colleague Ariel Sharon, who
is demanding a meeting of
the Likud Central Com-
mittee to discuss the inci-
dent. Shamir was also
criticized, off the record, by
senior security officials who
are angry that the prime
minister used intelligence

Ironically, Rabin once survived an attempt by Weizman to end his political career.

reports for political pur-
When the affair began,
Labor Party leader Shimon
Peres announced that he
was behind Weizman, "100
percent." Behind the scenes,
however, he was far less
supportive, dropping broad
hints that he would be
prepared to work out a deal
that would leave Weizman
in the lurch.
Weizman retaliated by
publicly cursing Peres and
revealing that the Labor
leader had been a party to
Weizman's contacts with the
"While I was talking to
Tunisia, Peres was on the
other phone, telling me what
to do," Weizman said. This
revelation badly damaged
Peres' already tarnished
credibility and seriously
harmed his relations with
the prime minister.
Weizman himself emerged

from the incident with a
demotion for what amounts
to security reasons. The
former air force commander
and minister of defense was
removed from the inner
cabinet for the grounds that
he is not trustworthy,
something that seriously
weakens his chances for at-

"Now I know how to
become a cabinet
minister. All I have
to do is talk to the

taining a senior government
post in the future. Moreover,
his profane attacks on Peres,
other Labor Party col-
leagues, whom he described
as "sons of whores" and on
the "stupid government" in
which he serves, have made
him an unpopular figure
among his colleagues.

As Shamir, Peres and
Weizman lost ground, Rabin
gained. First, he let the air
out of Labor's defense of the
Science Minister by observ-
ing, in a party meeting, that
"Shamir has a case." Then,
he shot down efforts by Peres
to form a narrow govern-
ment with the Orthodox par-
ties. Finally, he brokered the
deal that enabled Weizman
to remain in the govern-
ment, albeit in a reduced
In so doing, Rabin achiev-
ed several important goals.
He strengthened his
popularity with the general
public by making it clear
that he, too, opposes contacts
with the PLO; prevented his
long-time rival, Peres, from
becoming prime minister in
a Labor-led government in
which his own authority and
independence would be
diminished; and demon-
strated that he, and not



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