Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Foreign Minister's Threat to Resign Poses Test for Israel's Likud Party

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Foreign Minister's Threat to Resign Poses Test for Israel's Likud Party

Article excerpt

ISRAEL'S ruling Likud Party was thrown into confusion yesterday, in the wake of Foreign Minister David Levy's decision to resign in an internal power struggle that has sapped party strength just three months away from general elections.

Mr. Levy's announcement on Sunday night, at the end of an impassioned speech to a group of supporters, raised the prospect that the foreign minister, one of the Likud's major vote-pullers, might play a less than enthusiastic role in the current campaign.

It also failed to stem calls from some members of his faction for him to leave the party altogether. But the timing of the decision was seen both inside and outside the Likud as an act of brinkmanship, leaving plenty of time for Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to meet Levy's demands and persuade him to reconsider.

Levy cannot formally present his resignation until Sunday's Cabinet meeting, and it would not take effect for 48 hours. "He upped the stakes, and he put the ball back squarely in Shamir's court," says one Levy supporter. "Shamir said ... David is waving an empty pistol. Let's see how empty that pistol really is."

Levy has been feuding with Mr. Shamir for several weeks over the division of party jobs and of Cabinet posts in the next government should the Likud win the June 23rd election. He is demanding that his supporters be given 32 percent of all jobs, to match the vote he received in the Likud leadership elections last month.

Shamir has refused such an arrangement, arguing that it would institutionalize the growing factionalism within the party. He is also clearly aware that offering Levy one-third of government posts would oblige him to give another 22 percent to supporters of Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, who came in third in the leadership race. That would leave the prime minister's own camp in the minority in any future Cabinet. If Levy's resignation is accepted, his moderate voice in the Mideast peace talks is unlikely to be missed since Shamir has entrusted negotiations to his own people, not Levy's staff. …

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