As Shamir steps in, Israeli status quo seems safe. New leader's party shows no sign of radical policy change
Yitzhak Shamir's imminent return to the Israeli premiership has left his party scrambling to figure out what policies it will pursue in the months to come. Maintaining the status quo both domestically and in foreign policy seems to the one clear goal of Mr. Shamir's hard-line Likud bloc supporters only days before he becomes prime minister. That goal may allay Arab leaders' fears of new Israeli adventurism and ensure continued good relations between Israel and the United States, but it offers little hope to Israelis that the nation's most chronic problems will be tackled, analysts here say.Skip to next paragraph
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If all goes as planned, Shamir will become prime minister Tuesday and Shimon Peres, head of the centrist Labor Party, will take over as foreign minister for the next two years.
Anticipating this moment, the Likud suffered through two often acrimonious years in a Cabinet that was equally divided between Labor and its allies and Likud and its allies. As of Tuesday, the Likud will be in charge of the premiership and every important economic portfolio.
Rotation, analysts here say, offers the Likud a golden opportunity to prove itself capable of governing. After seven years in power, from 1977 until 1984, the Likud bears the stigma of being the party that brought Israel a 485 percent annual inflation rate and embarked on the costly Lebanon invasion. Its single foreign policy success was the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, an accomplishment tarnished in the minds of many voters by the uneasy state of relations between the two nations.
For those hoping to see a more creative approach to leadership, however, the Likud's preparations for rotation could hardly have been less encouraging.
It was only three weeks ago that the party formed a policy planning committee to discuss what initiatives the Likud will pursue once it regains the premiership. The committee seems to have made no significant decisions.
In contrast, Mr. Peres's aides started discussing last May their plans to overhaul the moribund Foreign Ministry and position their boss to pursue Middle East peace initiatives. The outgoing prime minister has made it clear he will be an activist foreign minister, constantly pushing push the Cabinet to improve Israel's relations with Egypt and to pursue negotiations with Jordan over the future of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Shamir has expressed no similar interest in policy initiatives. He and other Likud leaders have dismissed Peres's attempts to restart the peace process as ``Shimon's effort to change the world.''
``Likud's position [on pursuing negotiations] is the traditional Israeli position,'' says Moshe Arens, a Likud minister without portfolio. Peres's view, ``that negotiations between Israel and Arab countries have to be direct face-to-face negotiations between the two parties,'' Mr. Arens says, ``has deviated somewhat'' from this. Arens and other Likud leaders have made it clear that they believe no Arab leader is ready to make such a move and that therefore, nothing should be expected of Israel.