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Rivalry Between Rabin, Peres Rekindled Over Who Deserves Credit for Jordan Pact

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The old rivalry between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, his foreign minister, has resurfaced with new bitterness over who should get credit for the dramatic progress in Israel’s peace negotiations with Jordan.

Peres, who has pursued peace with Jordan through decades of secret contacts, was angered by Rabin’s initial failure to invite him to Washington for the summit meeting with King Hussein this week. He then was upset by the way he was pushed into the background during the celebrations.

The whole trip, which focused on Rabin and Hussein, was a three-day “nightmare” for Peres, according to his friends. As he boarded the plane home, the 71-year-old foreign minister was hinting at resigning and reportedly told aides, “I won’t let him (Rabin) damage my honor or credibility another time.”

For his part, Rabin, 72, has told his political confidants that the credit for the Jordanian breakthrough belongs to “the man who took the hard decisions, not a man who creates formulas to embody those decisions.”

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The feuding has serious implications for Israel’s continuing negotiations with all its Arab neighbors because, despite their sharp differences in the past, Rabin and Peres have proved effective partners in pushing the peace process forward since they returned to office two years ago.

At this point, according to political insiders, the differences between the two men are wholly personal and have nothing to do with the substance of the negotiations.

But with the daily backbiting by their aides and supporters, inflammatory leaks to the press and tension spreading through the government, they will find it difficult to work as a team, Israeli political observers say.

On Thursday, members of the Cabinet asked the two men to put aside their rivalry, which goes back more than 20 years, and resume their cooperation.

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“I appealed to them and said this tension is completely unnecessary,” Police Minister Moshe Shahal said after the Cabinet session, which approved the nonbelligerency declaration signed with Jordan in Washington. “There is enough room for both of them in history for what they have done and the achievements they have attained. . . . There is no need to create this tension.”

Cabinet member Shulamit Aloni, who has known both men since the 1940s, said, “There is competition here and there between them, there are misunderstandings here and there between them, but they are wise enough to overcome these. . . .

“People who are fighting for certain things . . . want to be recognized for (what they have done), they want the whole world to see them and hear their voices, they want the credit,” she added, noting that Peres had “a big show” when he went to Jordan to lay the groundwork for the Washington trip.

But Matti Golan, an Israeli journalist who has chronicled the Rabin-Peres dynamic for years, predicted: “It simply won’t end. It’s much more than a political issue--it’s psychological and very complicated.”

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