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Talks on Formation of ‘narrow Cabinet’ in Israel Reach Final Stage

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The formation of the new Israel Cabinet was today reaching its final stage. Hope was expressed that, before the week is over, Finance Minister Levi Eshkol, who is conducting the negotiations on behalf of the Mapai Party with other groups, will be in a position to present to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion the full composition of a new Government. Mr. Ben-Gurion will in turn present it to the Parliament.

The four parties which have agreed on the formation of a “small coalition Cabinet” are the Mapai, National Religious Party, Achdut Avoda and the Aguda Laborite Party. The new Cabinet will apparently be composed of 16 members. The Mapai is expected to get 11 portfolios in the Cabinet, the National Religious Party and Achdut Avoda are to get two portfolios each, and the Aguda Laborite group will have one portfolio.

The agreement has to be confirmed by all four prospective government partners. Today there were still points in the agreements which have to be ironed out in the inter-party negotiations. They included the question of “coalition discipline”–a rule under which members of the coalition partners would be forbidden to vote against bills proposed to Parliament by a majority of the next Cabinet. Another issue to be straightened out is a national Sabbath-observance law on which the National Religious Party insists. Mapai opposes such a law.

The division of portfolios, as well as final decisions on the other disputed points, must be ratified by each of the parties separately. Mapai and Achdut Avodah were still discussing the proposed agreements today, and the religious group was scheduled to debate the issues at a meeting of its leadership tomorrow. Mapai is determined to bring the talks to finality tomorrow.

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