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April 02, 1993 - Image 68

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-04-02

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

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Jerusalem (JTA) — The elec-
tion last week of Ezer Weiz-
man to be Israel's seventh
president is being seen here
as a much-needed victory for
the beleaguered Labor Par-
ty.
Mr. Weizman, 68, a na-
tional war hero and former
defense minister known for
his outspoken in-
dividualism, was elected by
the Knesset in a 66-53 vote
with one abstention.
But his victory over Likud
Knesset member Dov
Shilansky came only on a se-
cond ballot after an in-
validated first ballot, in
which more votes were cast
than the number of Knesset
members.
While Israel's presidency
is a largely symbolic office,
the victory is seen as impor-
tant for the Labor Party,
which has come under in-
tense criticism for its in-
ability to curb an um-elen-
ting wave of Arab violence.
Although Mr. Weizman
was favored to win, tension
was injected into the race
after the Knesset voted to
lift the immunity of Deputy
Religious Affairs Minister
Raphael Pinhasi of the
fervently Orthodox Shas
party.
Shas party leaders had
threatened to punish Labor
for voting against Mr.
Pinhasi by voting against
Labor's presidential can-
didate.
Upon learning the out-
come of the vote, Mr. Weiz-
man said he called Mr.
Shilansky "to congratulate
him for the way he fought
the battle, and he fought it
to the bitter end."
The Likud also sent a mes-
sage of congratulations to
Mr. Weizman, a sharp con-
trast to the bitter denuncia-
tions it issued when Mr.
Weizman's candidacy was
announced in January.
At the time, Likud labeled
Mr. Weizman as a
"superdove" who was will-
ing to see Israel take unac-
ceptable risks for peace.
The president-elect said he
did not want an elaborate
celebration of victory be-
cause of "the situation in
Israel today." He was referr-
ing to the wave of violence
that has engulfed this coun-
try in recent weeks.
Mr. Weizman refused to
comment on the peace pro-
cess and other policy matters
until he takes office in May.

Born in Tel Aviv, Mr.
Weizman was a fighter pilot
for the British during World
War II.
He then helped found the
Israeli air force, flew against
Egyptian forces in Israel's
War for Independence and
served as commander of the
air force from 1958 to 1966.
Mr. Weizman later entered
politics on the right of the
political spectrum under
Menachem Begin, the late
Likud prime minister.
In 1977, Mr. Weizman
managed Likud's election
campaign and led Mr. Begin
and his party to victory, en-
ding Labor's unbroken reign
after 29 years. His reward
was the post of defense min-
ister, in which he played a
major role in the peace pro-
cess with Egypt.
Egypt's ambassador to
Israel, Mohammed
Basyouni, warmly con-
gratulated Mr. Weizman,
saying he is well-known as
the "architect of the peace

Israel's
presidency is
largely symbolic.

process between Egypt and
Israel."
"I think he will also be <
helpful in achieving a com-
prehensive peace in our
area," Mr. Basyouni added.
But it was sharp differ-
ences with Mr. Begin over
the peace process that
prompted Mr. Weizman to K
resign from his post in 1980.
He left the Likud and later
formed the short-lived
Yachad faction, which later
merged with Labor.
Since his association with
Mr. Begin, Mr. Weizman has
moved decisively leftward
politically.
Mr. Weizman has called
for negotiations with the
Palestine Liberation Organ-
ization, the establishment of
a Palestinian state in the
territories and the
withdrawal from the Golan
Heights.
In 1990, Mr. Weizman was
accused by Prime Minister
Yitzhak Shamir of having il-
legal contacts with the PLO.
Mr. Shamir tried, without
success, to oust him from the
Cabinet.
In February 1992, Mr.
Weizman announced he was
quitting politics, saying,

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