TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir won approval to form a new government from his right-wing Likud Party on Sunday, but four lawmakers threatened not to support the coalition during a crucial parliamentary vote.
Likud's ruling Central Committee gave Shamir its blessing by an overwhelming show of hands after the 74-year-old prime minister outlined the policies of his new coalition in a passionate speech, promising to strive for peace.
Shamir is due today to present a government made up from religious and right-wing parties to the Knesset (Parliament), but he left open the possibility of seeking a delay. The new government is to replace Likud's alliance with the left-leaning Labor Party--an alliance that fell apart in March over how to proceed with a U.S. peace plan. Shamir has since led a caretaker government.
On Friday, Likud signed a coalition agreement with nine small factions and claimed 62 votes in the 120-member Knesset, which has to approve a government before it can take power.
But last-minute difficulties arose Sunday after four lawmkers belonging to various factions within Likud, angered by Shamir's refusal to give them Cabinet posts, threatened to abstain or vote against the government. The potential defections could endanger Shamir's narrow majority.
"I hope they don't go through with the threat," Shamir said.
Earlier, he presented his coalition to about 1,500 members of Likud's Central Committee at a sports stadium.
"Tomorrow we open a new page in the life of the state, in which Likud will play a central and essential role," he said. "We shall talk peace to all the world and shall not become tired in assuring everybody that we want peace and shall not stop working for peace."
He attacked the Labor Party, which engineered the March 15 collapse of the Likud-Labor coalition. He accused the rival party of "subversion" and said it wanted to create a leftist coalition and lead Israel "to surrender and national disaster."
Shamir said the new Likud-led coalition will "pay special attention to the issue of external and internal security. We shall strengthen the Israeli army and all the defense forces that guard the country, and shall strive to give them the means necessary to deter any enemy."
Shamir also promised to "deal in a decisive manner" with Palestinian rioters but said he believes that most of the 1.7 million Arabs living in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip want peace.