Israel’s Labor Split over Unity Government
A split surfaced Thursday in the Labor Party over joining a national unity government proposed by the Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon after two leading party figures who are strongly opposed to joining a unity coalition – outgoing Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and outgoing Justice Minister Yossi Beilin – announced that they would not bolt the party if Labor's Central Committee decided next week to join forces with the Likud party.
According to a report by Haaretz on Friday, the announcement was made following a meeting Thursday in Tel Aviv of anti-unity Labor members, at which Beilin said he would not lead a party walkout over the unity issue – at least not immediately. "I will not leave the party the day after the decision – I will not give that pleasure to anyone," he said. "But it should be clear that the party is headed for a crash."
According to the daily, Beilin also criticized the members of the party's coalition negotiating team, saying that he never believed they would "sell the party in order to enter the government."
Ben-Ami was quoted as saying the same day that if the party voted in favor of a unity government, he would accept "the democratic process." But he made no bones about his belief that Labor had nothing to gain from entering a unity government, and he accused senior party members of paternalism. "Now come the Mapainikim (supporters of the precursor of present-day Labor) and they say, 'the people have chosen someone else and we have to guard over him to make sure he doesn't make any mistakes.' This is the classic type of arrogance that always defeats this party."
Ben-Ami, who was interviewed on Army Radio, said he believed that when it came to issues of peace and security, Labor could always choose to support the government from the opposition benches. "We have to see this battle as a basis for political renewal," he said. "We have to be able to present an alternative."
Previously, a group of Labor party ministers in Israel's outgoing cabinet had dropped a previous veto on participating in a government of national unity alongside extreme-right parties, Israel's military radio.
But the group said their agreement hinged on Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon committing himself to blocking any attempt by the far right to push for moving Palestinians to other Arab countries.
They also said he had to block any discriminatory measures against Israeli Arab.
Sharon has been trying to put together a cabinet including Labor, but has warned that if that party does not join, he will form a cabinet with the extreme right.
Outgoing premier Ehud Barak, who announced Tuesday that he was dropping out of politics and would not take up the previously agreed post of defense minister under Sharon, had consistently objected to a cabinet including the far right.
Labor's central committee is due to decide on Monday on its inclusion in a Sharon-led government.
Sharon had ordered his delegation in unity talks with the Labor not to give up on the finance ministry -- Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)