Shamir sworn in as new Israeli premier. Hardline leader brings changed tone, emphasis to Mideast issues
In the search for Middle East peace, the biggest difference between Israel's new prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, and his predecessor, Shimon Peres, is one of style rather than substance. This is the view of Mr. Shamir, who was sworn into office Monday, as well as observers of the Israeli political scene.
Shamir made what his aides described as a major policy speech to Israel's parliament when he presented his 25-member Cabinet for a vote of confidence yesterday. He listed fighting inflation, cutting government spending, increasing security, and eliminating terrorism among his priorities.
What analysts note is Mr. Shamir's change in tone, wording, and emphasis from Mr. Peres. A former leader of an extremist Jewish guerrilla organization in pre-state days and former Mossad intelligence agent, Shamir stressed security concerns and the need for Israel to be strong. He reintroduced politically sensitive terms Peres had dropped during his two-year tenure and dropped others Peres had added.
Shamir spoke several times of ``Eretz Yisrael'' and Judea and Samaria. Shamir's hard-line Likud bloc and parties to the right of it use ``Eretz Yisrael'' to describe the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, which they believe is Biblically mandated to the Jews. They use the Biblical names of Judea and Samaria to describe the West Bank of the Jordan River. The three terms are offensive to many Arabs, because they tend to emphasize Israel's possession of land Palestinians claim as theirs.
Shamir omitted the terms ``international conference'' and ``Palestinian people,'' both of which were seen as at least symbolic concessions to Arabs when Peres used them.
On the issue of pursuing peace with Israel's Arab neighbors, Shamir downplayed differences between Likud and Peres's centrist Labor Party. Likud holds that Israel will make no further territorial concessions, but Labor has said it is willing to entertain territorial compromise in exchange for a peace treaty with Jordan. There is no need for the Israeli parties to argue, Shamir said, because blame for lack of progress toward peace lies with the Arabs.
``If there are disputes among us as to the modes and methods that are to be adopted in striving for peace, they are disputes over tactics and not over essence or goal,'' Shamir said. ``There is no point or purpose in fanning the dispute amongst ourselves, so long as the Arab side has not presented a proposal that is acceptable to even part of the government.''
Shamir seemed to scotch the idea of Israel participating in an international peace conference, a concession Peres made during his September summit with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein have said that an international peace conference, including permanent members of the UN Security Council and parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict, is the appropriate venue for negotiations.
``The government will continue indefatigably to create conditions that will enable Israel and Jordan to live in peace alongside each other,'' Shamir said. ``But we will not be able to attain this without free, direct, face-to-face discussion. No international forum can serve as a substitute. . . .'' Israel is committed to pursuing peace, he said, but its neighbors should know that it acts not ``out of weakness or infirmity.''
Shamir made no reference at all to the Palestinians or to Palestinian rights. He referred to ``the Arab residents of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza District,'' and said Israel wants to ensure for them ``a life of peaceful coexistence with their Jewish neighbors.'' Peres, in contrast, referred several times to the Palestinian people, to Israel's recognition of their aspirations, and to the need for peace negotiations to be conducted between Israelis and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.
On domestic problems, Shamir said that during the next two years, the coalition government in which the Likud and Labor share power will continue to fight inflation and will seek to forge a ``Zionist economy.'' Such an economy, he said, ``will not be based only on solid economic principles but also on the Zionist values which must be our guide, and among them the supreme value of [Jewish] settlement throughout Eretz Israel.'' In an oblique reference to Peres's argument that establishing new settlements in the occupied territories took money away from Israeli towns within the state's pre-1967 borders, Shamir said that under him, the government ``will not discriminate between one part of the country and another: just as there is one people of Israel, so is there one Land of Israel.''
Shamir spoke of the need to cut taxes and government spending, and promised to keep unemployment down. ``We must concentrate on changes that will permit new immigrants to earn a living. . .,'' he said. ``Encouragement should be given to . . . initiative, action, originality, and the assumption of personal responsibility.''