WORLD

A coalition in crisis

PEETER KOPVILLEM July 14 1986
WORLD

A coalition in crisis

PEETER KOPVILLEM July 14 1986

A coalition in crisis

ISRAEL

One member of the Israeli Parliament denounced the two Arabs as nothing more than “filthy terrorists.” But last week the memory of Majdi and Subhi Abu-Jumas haunted Israel’s top politicians and menaced the Likud-Labor coalition government. After foiling a 1984 bus hijacking, Israeli authorities claimed all four Palestinian hijackers were killed in the raid. But news photographs showed two of them being led away alive by members of Shin Beth, the Israeli domestic intelligence service. Last month Israeli newspapers implicated the government in covering up the beating deaths of the two men while in Shin Beth’s custody, and many Labor politicians called for a full investigation. Likud party members maintained that any inquiry could jeopardize national security by exposing the inner workings of Shin Beth. In the centre of the storm: Foreign Minister and Likud Leader Yitzhak Shamir, who as prime minister at the time of the slayings was responsible for Shin Beth.

Under the 1984 Likud-Labor powersharing agreement, Shamir is due to take over as prime minister in the coalition from Labor’s Shimon Peres in October. In an effort to defuse the crisis, the cabinet last month persuaded President Chaim Herzog to grant immunity to Shin Beth chief Avraham Shalom—accused of ordering the killings—in return for Shalom’s resignation. But the Israeli supreme court ruled that the government must within

14 days show legal cause why a police inquiry should not be held. According to Israeli newspaper reports, Shalom implicated Shamir in the killings saying that he acted with the authorization of his political superiors.

But Shamir professed his innocence and roundly denounced his critics. He said, “They will be ashamed in the end when they hear the truth.” And Shamir appeared to soften his stance against an investigation. “I will go along with every decision,” he said. With Labor members demanding that the matter be cleared up before Shamir becomes prime minister, reports last week indicated that he and Peres were ready to negotiate a compromise—possibly a private investigation by a secret one-man inquiry.

Meanwhile, an opinion poll of 400 Israelis conducted by the daily newspaper Hadashot showed that 71 per cent oppose a full-scale inquiry and favor an immediate end to the scandal. As well, 60 per cent say that in the interests of national security, Shin Beth should not be investigated. Some experts claim that Peres, faced with that popular sentiment, is unwilling to compromise the coalition and force an election over the issue—even in the face of criticism within his own party. Said one official: “Peres knows that if he goes to the voters on this issue the Likud will eat him up.”

— PEETER KOPVILLEM with correspondents’ reports