JERUSALEM — Israel's fragile coalition government was plunged into crisis today as Prime Minister Shimon Peres vowed to fire Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai for ridiculing him publicly.
Peres, incensed because Modai called him "a flying prime minister" and a lightweight who understands nothing about the economy, told Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir that Modai would have to go.
Modai refused to apologize or retract his remarks, and a Modai spokesman quoted Shamir as saying it was against the coalition agreement "and (Peres) had no right to do it."
Peres, leader of the Labor Party, is scheduled to hand over the prime minister's job to Shamir of the rightist Likud in October. The split "national unity government" was formed after deadlocked 1984 elections, but a recent surge in Peres' popularity reportedly has prompted ideas of abandoning the coalition.