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June 15, 1990 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-06-15

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Israel Correspondent


his week, after almost
three months of bitter
political infighting,
Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir succeeded in ham-
mering together a narrow-
based, hawkish government
that includes the Likud, two
small, far-right parties and
several Orthodox factions.
Unlike its predecessor, the
two-headed national unity
government, the new coali-
tion will, in Shamir's words,
"speak in one voice." The
question is, what will it say?
And, even more important,
how will it translate its
words into action?
At first glance, the new co-
alition seems surprisingly
familiar, even predictable.
After three previous terms
as prime minister, Shamir is
a well known quantity. Six-
teen of his 18 cabinet min-
isters have served in
previous governments —11
in the same posts they now
occupy. The central figures
in the cabinet — Foreign
Minister David Levy,
Defense Minister Moshe
Arens, Housing Minister
Ariel Sharon and Finance
Minister Yitzhak Modai —
have all been influential pol-
iticians since the first Likud
government was formed,
under Menachem Begin, in
There is also a comfortably
familiar ring to the new
government's official poli-
cies. The coalition agree-
ment that sets forth the
cabinet's basic guidelines
places first priority on the
absorption of the wave of
Soviet immigrants now ar-
riving in Israel. In foreign
affairs, it reaffirms previous
government decisions, in-
cluding the Camp David ac-
cords, and the Shamir peace
initiative of May, 1989. That
initiative calls for talks with

Yitzhak Shamir's new government seems surprisingly familiar.



Yitzhak Shamir says his new coalition will
"speak in one voice," but what will it say
and how will it translate its words into

non-PLO Palestinians, to be
followed by elections in the
West Bank and Gaza, and
eventual Arab autonomy in
those territories.
In his inaugural speech to
the Knesset, Shamir sound-
ed a moderate note, em-
phasizing his desire for talks
with the Arabs in general,
and the Palestinians in par-
ticular. He also made a point

of reaching out to the United
States, calling relations with
Washington a "cornerstone
of Israeli policy."
Privately, the prime min-
ister and other senior Likud
figures have made it clear
that they are anxious to
calm American fears about
the hawkish composition of
the new government.
Such a goal, however, may

be difficult to achieve. The
main sticking point in
U.S.-Israeli relations has
been disagreement on the
Palestinian issue. Washing-
ton wants Shamir to open
talks with a Palestinian
delegation that includes
PLO-affiliated Arabs expell-
ed from the West Bank and
Gaza for security violations;
and to extend his election

plan to the Arab residents of
East Jerusalem, an area
annexed by Israel shortly
after the 1967 Six Day War.
In his previous ad-
ministration, Shamir re-
jected this American inter-
pretation of his initiative, a
decision that led to the fall of
the unity government, and a
clip in relations with Wash-
ington. Shamir's rejection
stemmed less from his own
views than from internal
Likud pressure. Three of his
leading party colleagues —
Levy, Sharon and Modai —
opposed a meeting with
PLO- affiliated Palestinians,
or East Jerusalem elections.
Moreover, they made it clear
that they would challenge
Shamir's leadership if he
tried to force the issue. The
first rule of politics —sur-
vival — convinced the prime
minister to say "no" to Secre-
tary of State Baker rather
than to his own powerful
party rivals.
On the surface, Israel's
new, more hawkish govern-
ment should constrain the
prime minister even more
than its predecessor. His co-
alition has a precariously
narrow parliamentary
majority; three or four
deputies among the 62 who
voted for his government
could, by defecting, bring
him dov,n.. Among his sup-
porters there are at least ten
who openly oppose making
the concessions demanded
by Washington. To further
complicate matters, many of
these hawks want the
government to build new
settlements in the West
Bank and Gaza, a policy cer-
tain to lead to direct confron-
tation with the Bush ad-
Such a confrontation could
prove politically disastrous
for Shamir. His coalition
partners also include a
small, but potentially
decisive, group of doves rep-
resenting two ultra- Or-



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