Likud Approves Gov’t Amid Threats of Defections
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir won approval Sunday from his right-wing Likud bloc to form a new government, but several key coalition members threatened not to support the alliance in a crucial vote.
Late Sunday, top officials in the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party presented Likud with a series of ultimatums demanding an end to a police inquiry into the actions of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the Shas leader. Shas is a member of Shamir’s proposed coalition and was instrumental in toppling the last government.
Israel television said Shas’ spiritual leaders, the Council of Torah Sages, would decide whether to support Likud in the Monday vote after it received a reply to their demands.
Likud’s ruling Central Committee gave Shamir its blessing by an overwhelming show of hands after the 74-year-old prime minister outlined the policies of his new coalition in an passionate speech, promising to strive for peace.
″Tomorrow we open a new page in the life of the state, in which Likud will play a central and essential role,″ he said. ″We shall talk peace to all the world, and shall not become tired in assuring everybody that we want peace, and shall not stop working for peace.″
Shamir is due to present a government with religious and right-wing parties to the 120-member Parliament on Monday, but he left open the possibility of seeking a delay. A new government would replace Likud’s alliance with the left-leaning Labor Party, which fell apart in March over how to proceed with a U.S. peace plan.
On Friday, Likud signed a coalition agreement with nine small factions, claiming 62 votes in the 120-member Knesset, or parliament, which has to approve a government before it takes power.
But last-minute difficulties arose Sunday after four legislators belonging to various factions within the Likud, angered by Shamir’s refusal to give them Cabinet posts, threatened to abstain or vote against the government.
Shamir indicated he might try to postpone the parliament vote due to the internal bickering, saying: ″I will weigh and decide. I want to be careful. I hope I have a majority.″
Late Sunday night, Shas, which has five parliament seats, held an emergency meeting and presented Likud with demands and ultimatums aimed at stopping the inquiry into Deri’s actions.
A communique released by national police spokesman Adi Gonen on Sunday said Deri would be investigated on suspicion of ″fraud and breach of confidence in what is linked to allocations of money from the Interior Ministry budget to all kinds of religious institutions.″
There was no immediate response from Likud.
Earlier Sunday, Shamir presented his coalition to some 1,500 members of Likud’s Central Committee at a sports stadium.
″Likud undertakes today a most difficult task ... running a country at a difficult and fateful hour, abundant in dangers and threats,″ Shamir said.
He then attacked the Labor Party, which engineered the March 15 collapse of the Likud-Labor coalition. He accused the rival party of ″subversion″ and said it wanted to create a leftist coalition and lead Israel ″to surrender and national disaster.″
Shamir said the new Likud-led coalition will ″pay special attention to the issue of external and internal security. We shall strengthen the Israeli army and all the defense forces that guard the country, and shall strive to give them the means necessary to deter any enemy.″
Past coalition agreements have not mentioned the military.
Shamir also promised to ″deal in a decisive manner″ with Palestinian rioters but said he believed most of the 1.7 million Arabs living in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip wanted peace.
Shamir said his new government would seek to improve relations with the United States that have deteriorated over Shamir’s refusal to back U.S. proposals for peace talks with the Palestinians.
But he stated Israel ″shall not enter the alleged negotiations process with the enemies seeking to harm us, with our eyes closed, entertaining empty dreams and illusions.″