Eshkol Starts Discussions on Formation of New Coalition Cabinet

Premier Levi Eshkol began plans today for his effort to form a new coalition government by discussing with other Mapai Ministers the idea of offering the post of Deputy Premier to Moshe Shapiro, leader of the National Religious Party, as a goodwill gesture.

The Deputy Premier’s post may become open as a result of Mrs. Golda Meir’s apparently firm decision to leave the Cabinet post of foreign minister. If that happens, Abba Ehan, the present Deputy Premier, would become Foreign Minister.

The Religious Party decided last night in principle to enter the new coalition. Mapam leaders also gave approval, but on the basis of a more leftist wage policy for Israel. Mr. Eshkol also plans to talk to the Independent Liberals as a prospective coalition partner.

The Premier also was scheduled to meet tomorrow with Finance Minister Pinbas Sapir and Education Minister Zalman Arrane reportedly to dissuade them to drop plans to leave the Gabinet. Both are Mapai Ministers. The Finance Minister has declared repeatedly that he intends to resign but it was generally assumed that the Premier would induce him to change his mind.

Other snags in the Cabinet-making effort apparently stemmed from Mapam’s determination to carry into the negotiations with Premier Eshkol its campaign drive against expansion of the “religious domination” of Israel’s national life. The Religious Party was expected to demand enactment of a national Sabbath law as a condition of joining the next Cabinet.

Mr. Shapiro submitted to the Premier today a long list of conditions for joining the coalition. These included revision of the issue of drafting women for military service, the Sabbath law proposal and introduction of a 5-1/2 day work week.

Meanwhile Mr. Sapir reiterated again today his determination to quit as Finance Minister to become head of the economic enterprises department of the Histadrut, Israel’s Labor Federation. His move was described by political observers as more a tactical maneuver than an indication of the Minister’s actual intentions.

It was believed that the Finance Minister had sent the letter for two reasons. One was to put implicit pressure on Mrs. Golda Meir to give up any thoughts of resigning as Foreign Minister when Mr. Eshkol assembles his new coalition, and the other is to get promises of maximum support for the Premier for what the Finance Minister expects to be tough years for that Ministry. The Finance Minister will have to make many unpopular fiscal decisions during that time.

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