JERUSALEM -- New Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's government took power Tuesday and immediately began preparing for Secretary of State James Baker's visit next week to accelerate the Middle East peace process.
Rabin said he was pleased with calls he received Monday night from Baker and President Bush, congratulating him on forming a government.
'I believe that in light of the conversations I've had with President Bush and Secretary of State Baker, the political process will speed up,' he said.
Before he assumed office, Rabin had already announced his intention to travel to the United States, and Bush invited him during their telephone call to come in August.
Rabin has spent considerable time in Washington, visiting as prime minister in the mid-1970's and before that as Israel's ambassador. He is expected to discuss the peace process as well as the $10 billion in loan guarantees sought by the previous Likud Party administration of Yitzhak Shamir.
Throughout the day, official ceremonies took place at the various government ministries where former ministers in the outgoing Likud Cabinet handed over power to their replacements in the Labor-led coalition. At the prime minister's office, Shamir was gracious in his departure speech.
'After the Knesset yesterday expressed its confidence in the incoming government, Yitzhak Rabin is today in all respects the prime minister of the government in Israel, and I hand over to him the business of the government of Israel,' Shamir said.
Outgoing Foreign Minister David handed over the reins of the ministry to Shimon Peres, who is both a former prime minister and foreign minister and is the No. 2 man in the Labor Party.
Since the start of the Middle East peace talks, Levy has been embroiled in controversy with Shamir. At the opening Madrid session, Shamir upstaged Levy, who ended up with a minor role in the ongoing negotiations. Peres and Rabin have had their own feud which culminated in Rabin's replacing Peres as party leader earlier this year. As Shamir did before him, Rabin is expected to handle the direct bilateral negotiations himself, while Peres will be responsible for the multilateral talks.
The only exception to the exchange of personnel was at the Interior Ministry which was again given to Aryeh Deri, leader of the ultra- Orthodox Shas Party. Shas was a partner in the previous right-wing Likud government, but was convinced to join Rabin's left-wing coalition.
Deri is under police investigation for alleged misappropriation of ministry funds. Former Shas member of Knesset Yair Levy narrowly missed re-election, and is currently under trial in Tel Aviv for fraud. Incoming police minister Moshe Shahal said his ministry would not hamper the police investigation.