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March 16, 1990 - Image 39

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ANALYSIS

DAVID AND GOLIATH

ZE'EV CHAFETS

Israel Correspondent

S

een from a distance,
there is a nice, clean
ideological feel to
Israel's current political
crisis.
The dovish Labor Party,
anxious to move the peace
process forward, is prepared
to allow Arab residents of
East Jerusalem to vote in
any West Bank election, and
to include Palestine Libera-
tion Organization activists
expelled from Israeli-held
territory in a Palestinian
negotiating team.
The more hawkish Likud,
nervous about peace talks, is
dragging its feet by deman-
ding that East Jerusalem
Arabs be denied a vote and
that PLO-allied deportees be
disqualified as negotiators.
From up close, however,
the situation is not nearly so
neat, nor so ideologically
clear.
As Tip O'Neil, former
speaker of the House of
Representatives, once
observed: All politics are
local. This is particularly
true in Israel, where foreign
policy positions often have
more to do with the personal
and political interests of
rival politicos than with ide-
ology or concern for the na-
tional interest.
Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir, for example, has re-
cently appeared to be back-
ing away from his own peace
proposal. Some observers
here have concluded that
Shamir fears the outcome of
talks with the Palestinians
in Cairo. But he is probably
even more afraid of his own
right-wing opposition within
the Likud.
It now appears that
Shamir badly
underestimated his internal

Positions Change,
But Ambitions Don't
In Israeli Politics

rivals. For the past few
weeks, the prime minister
has been under increasingly
effective pressure from
Likud hawks. Those include
Ariel Sharon, who recently
resigned from the govern-
ment over Shamir's peace
plan; Deputy Prime Minister
David Levy, who has called
for a break-up of the
Government of National
Unity and new elections;
and dissidents such as
Eliahu Ben Elissar, chair-
man of the Knesset Foreign
Affairs and Security Com-
mittee, who has demanded
Shamir's resignation. All
charge that Shamir has
drifted too far to the left, and
is prepared to concede too
much to the Palestinians.
Shamir might have ex-
pected such reactions from
his party rivals. But he has
been disconcerted by
hawkish criticism of his plan
from supporters and pro-
teges such as Labor and So-
cial Affairs Minister Ronnie
Milo, Knesset member
Benny Begin and Deputy
Foreign Minister Benyamin
Netanyahu. Last week,
Netanyahu offered to quit

his post after voicing grave
reservations about the direc-
tion Shamir's diplomacy is
taking.
Perhaps these Shamirites
are genuinely concerned
about the peace process. But
it is no coincidence that their
concerns began to surface
after last month's Likud

Faced with the
possible defection
of his closest
supporters,
Yitzhak Shamir has
had little choice
but to move to the
right.

Central Committee meeting.
At that meeting, Foreign
Minister Moshe Arens, the
heir apparent to the aging
Shamir, was notably silent
in the face of bitter attacks
on the prime minister and
his policies. Privately, some
concede they have lost con-
fidence in Arens, and fear for
their political futures in a
showdown between the

gentlemanly foreign min-
ister and the more robust
"constraint camp"led by
Sharon and Levy.
Faced with the possible
defection of his closest sup-
porters, Shamir has had
little choice but to move to
the right. He has put out a
new, more hawkish inter-
pretation on his own peace
plan, thus undercutting the
militant arguments of his
main Likud opponents.
Shamir has paid a price for
this, both in terms of Israel-
United States relations, and
in undermining the stability
of the government of nation-
al unity. But to the prime
minister, as for almost any
politician, maintaining
leadership within his own
party comes first.
The Labor Party has
shown equal amounts of self-
interest throughout the cur-
rent crisis.
For weeks, Finance Min-
ister Shimon Peres has been
working to dismantle the
government, while his main
party rival, Defense Min-
ister Yitzhak Rabin, has
been striving to keep it in-
tact. Peres has maintained

that bringing down Shamir
is necessary to move the
peace process forward. Rabin
has said that a Likud-Labor
partnership is the best
framework for reaching an
eventual agreement on the
Palestinian issue.
But behind the high mind-
ed rhetoric, both men have
good personal reasons for
their positions.
Like Shamir, Peres is wor-
ried about losing his place at
the head of his party. Since
1977, he has led his ticket to
four consecutive electoral
failures. There is increasing
pressure to replace him at
the head of the Labor list
with a more attractive can-
didate.
Moreover, as finance min-
ister in the government of
national unity, Peres' pop-
ularity has slipped to a new
low. He has been forced to
take tough measures and to
absorb much of the blame for
high unemployment, stub-
born inflation and economic
stagnation. Thus, Peres has
good reason to want out of
the present partnership with
the Likud. Peres might be
able to form an alternative
government, which would
give him the prestige of be-
ing prime minister. Or fail-
ing that, he might still have
enough clout in his party to
be renominated for one last
run against the Likud.
On the other hand, the
chief beneficiary of the
government of national uni-
ty has been Yitzhak Rabin.
In return for Rabin's loyal
support, Prime Minister
Shamir has given him a free
hand in the Defense Min-
istry, as well as a virtual ex-
emption from normal par-
tisan criticism. As a result,
as Peres' popularity in the
country and the party has
slipped, Rabin's has risen.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

39

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