JERUSALEM (Nov. 8)
Top leaders of the Mapai Party, which came out victorious in the parliamentary elections last week, met here today under the leadership of Premier David Ben-Gurion for a formal discussion of the terms and conditions for a new coalition government. All Mapai members of the Cabinet participated in the meeting.
The talks were held as indications pointed to the possibility that Mapai, together with its affiliated Arab parties, may hold as much as 53 or 54 of a total of 120 seats in the Parliament. The Mapai-affiliated Arabs may finally have as much as five seats in the Knesset, the Israel Parliament, it was believed here today. The final election results will be announced within a few days.
Premier Ben-Gurion reportedly advocated today the formation of a coalition with the General Zionists with a view to carrying out electoral reforms. The Mapai and the General Zionists are the only two groups which, before the elections, favored a change in the present proportional representation to a constituency system which will ultimately give the country two major parties. Having, however, suffered heavy losses in last week’s election, It is doubtful whether the General Zionists are still interested in advocating electoral changes.
It is understood that Mapai leadership is opposed to a coalition with the General Zionists. The Young Mapai leaders want the same composition as the outgoing coalition, namely–Mapai, Mapam, Achdut Avodah, and the Progressives. Others suggest even a broader coalition Cabinet by adding to the above parties also the National Religious party. However, at today’s meeting the following decision was adopted:
1. Mapai is willing to negotiate for a “wall to wall” coalition, which would include all Knesset parties from Agudat Yisrael to Mapam but with the exception of right-wing Herut and the Communists.
2. Former Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yaacov Toledano must remain in the new Cabinet. Rabbi Toledano accepted the post of Minister for Religious Affairs when the National Religious party quit the coalition over the “Who is a Jew” identity dispute. Today’s decision means that the National Religious party could rejoin the coalition only on the condition that they accept portfolios other than the Religious Ministry.
3. The Cabinet is to be reorganized by possibly abolishing some ministries and merging others. One ministry, whose abolition may be sought is the Ministry of Police, while the Ministries of Labor and Development may be merged.
Observers believe that while these conditions may be guiding lines for Mapai’s coalition negotiations, they are subject to change if necessary.