JERUSALEM (Oct. 10)
Prospects of forming a broad coalition Government collapsed today when Levi Eshkol, Finance Minister who has been seeking to form a new government under a mandate from President Ben-Zvi, told the “Club of Four” that he saw no basis for further talks with them for a five-party coalition. The Club of Four is a loose alliance of the National Religious Party, the Liberal Party, Mapam and Achdut Avoda organized for coalition talks.
The development also signaled the end of the Club of Four. The Finance Minister told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that for the next few days he would take no new initiative and that he would await the outcome of internal discussions now taking place among other parties on their conditions for Joining a new coalition.
He did not elaborate, but it appeared the main prospect now was for a Cabinet made up of Mapai, the Liberals, the National Religious Bloc and the Poale Agudat Israel, which with a total of 77 seats in Israel’s Parliament, would have a slender majority of 17 seats in the 120-seat house.
Liberal party sources meanwhile denied today published reports that a tentative agreement had already been reached with Mapai. The Liberal party scheduled a meeting today at which a final decision on rejoining the Cabinet was to be taken.
It was reported that while some Liberal party leaders favored remaining in the opposition, a majority were inclined to join a Mapai-dominated Cabinet if they were given some key portfolios. This information indicated that even a decision to go into a coalition with Mapai by the Liberals would still involve protracted negotiations before a new government could be constituted.