JERUSALEM (Oct. 24)
Finance Minister Levi Eshkol, who is attempting on behalf of Mapai to form a new coalition government, presented today to President Ben-Zvi a progress report on his efforts.
He informed the President that while his series of talks up to yesterday with leaders of the Liberal party, Achdut Avodah and the National Religious Party had failed to end the deadlock blocking formation of a new government, he intended to continue his efforts.
The Mapai applied pressure yesterday to the leftist Achdut Avodah for a prompt answer on whether it would join the coalition–now that all of its conditions for joining have been met–without its partner, Mapam. Achdut Avodah leaders promised an early reply.
The latest stumbling block, a split in the Mapam-Achdut Avodah united front on negotiations, arose when Mapam began to make new demands. The Finance Minister yesterday told leaders of Achdut Avodah, which has indicated readiness to join a coalition, that “you must now decide whether you are ready to go without Mapam if the latter’s negative attitude persists.”
Mapai sources were reported today as convinced that Mapam leaders have decided not to join a new coalition for ideological conditions unrelated to the issues that have been raised in more than two months of coalition negotiation. An indication was a demand raised publicly by Mapam urging Israel to adhere to a policy of strict non-alignment in the East-West power struggle.
This demand had not been raised in the Mapam talks with Mr. Eshkol nor was it included in the joint conditions agreed on by Mapam and Achdut Avodah. The Mapam shift was believed to stem from a new appraisal of developments on the international scene. The consensus was that if Achdut agreed to join, Mapam would be compelled to do likewise.
The major unresolved issue in talks with the Liberal party was reported to be that of Liberal insistence on government control of health services. Mr. Eshkol was reported to feel that the Liberal demands on this issue and on the portfolios they wanted were not warranted by their 17 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament.
In another phase of the coalition situation, the Knesset referred to its Law Committee a bill sponsored by six parties which would limit the period which a Premier-Designate would have to form a government.
The government withdrew today a bill which would have enabled a new Knesset to pick up on pending legislation at the point where the outgoing Knesset had left off. The proposal evoked widespread opposition in Knesset and the withdrawal was made to avoid a defeat for the government.