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Cognac, Then a West Bank Visit : Shamir Starts First Day in Office by Toasting Peres

October 22, 1986|From Times Wire Services

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir began his first full day in office Tuesday by toasting his political archrival, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, with cognac and then visiting a Jewish community in the occupied West Bank.

The exchange of toasts came a day after Shamir and Peres swapped leadership posts under the first government power-sharing agreement in Israel's history. Raising his glass, Shamir called the agreement "an experiment that has had no precedent in Israel and almost nowhere else in the world."

The change in power went smoothly Monday, with the Knesset approving Shamir's new government by a 4-to-1 margin.

Visit to Settlement

Shamir, a hard-line conservative who has vowed to continue building Jewish settlements in Israeli-occupied Arab territory, spoke later Tuesday to political supporters and visited the Jewish settlement of Kochav Yair northeast of Tel Aviv and just beyond Israel's pre-1967 borders.

His visit underscored what is likely to be one of the most controversial of his government's policies. Shamir and his right-wing Likud Bloc see the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an inseparable part of Israel and support Jewish settlement in the war-won territories where 60,000 Jewish settlers live among 1.3 million Palestinians.

However, Peres, head of the centrist Labor Alignment, favors restrained settlement and opposes Jewish development altogether in Palestinian cities. The United States also opposes settlement expansion.

The two men swapped jobs under a Likud-Labor agreement calling for each man to serve 25 months as prime minister and 25 months as foreign minister. Peres became prime minister when the accord was reached in September, 1984, after inconclusive general elections.

Before visiting Kochav Yair on Tuesday, Shamir spoke to Holocaust survivors from his Herut Party, the main faction within Likud, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya, telling them that Israel must settle all the territory it holds to make room for Jews who live outside Israel.

'Prevent the Tragedy'

Shamir called on the Jews of the world to return to the land of their ancestors. "We must settle all the Land of Israel so that we have a place to absorb all the Jews of the Diaspora when they come," he said.

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