Rabin announces Cabinet Some posts still vacant. Agenda seems ambitious.

July 13, 1992|By Chicago Tribune

JERUSALEM -- With the straight-ahead determination of a general marshaling his troops for battle, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has put together a new Israeli government with startling alacrity and efficiency.

Mr. Rabin announced his Cabinet choices to the Labor Party's central committee last night, and today he was to formally succeed Yitzhak Shamir after presenting his government to the new Knesset, or parliament.

The ruling coalition, consisting of Labor's 44 seats, 12 from the left-wing Meretz Party and 6 from the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, gives Mr. Rabin 62 votes in the 120-seat Knesset. He also has the tacit backing of five seats controlled by two primarily Arab parties.

It is not the broad coalition Mr. Rabin says he wants, and he has left several key Cabinet portfolios open in hopes of luring at least two more small parties into the coalition.

In announcing his new Cabinet, Mr. Rabin laid out an ambitious agenda and told the Labor Party's central committee that his government would be judged on its "ability to move the peace process forward, first and foremost with the Palestinians."

Mr. Rabin sidestepped one potential land mine within his own party by offering the Foreign Ministry post to archrival Shimon Peres, but claiming for himself the primary responsibility of handling Israel's participation in the peace process.

According to Mr. Rabin, the prime minister's office will direct the crucial bilateral negotiations between Israel and its Arab adversaries. The Foreign Ministry will deal with the more mundane multilateral talks on broad regional issues.

As expected, Mr. Rabin also reserved the defense portfolio for himself, but placed Labor's Mordechai Gur, a member of the Knesset, in charge of day-to-day operations. Mr. Gur, like Mr. Rabin, is a former general and army chief-of-staff with hawkish views.

A potential source of trouble for Mr. Rabin is the uneasy alliance with Shas, the party of ultra-Orthodox Sephardim, Jews from Arab lands.

To tempt at least one more religious party into the government, Mr. Rabin has left vacant the religious affairs portfolio, a ministry of crucial power and prestige in the eyes of Israel's ultra-orthodox community.

Mr. Rabin also has left vacant the welfare Cabinet slot in hopes of securing the support of the right-wing Tsomet Party, which won eight seats in last month's election.

Of the 17 Cabinet appointments announced by Mr. Rabin, 13 will go to Labor, 3 to Meretz and one to Shas. The new government will have a decidedly dovish tone; at least half the Labor ministers and all the Meretz are well to the left of center.

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