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Eshkol Plans to Leave Hospital on Sunday; Will Direct Coalition Talks

Premier Levi Eshkol, who hopes to leave Hadassah Hospital Sunday after a two-week stay because of exhaustion, intends to take over personal direction of negotiations for a new coalition Government, it was reported today.

He will seek to break the deadlock which has developed over demands of the National Religious Party as its conditions for joining the new coalition. The NRP issued a statement yesterday that it saw no basis for joining the new coalition in the latest proposals of Premier Eshkol’s Mapai-Achdut Avoda Alignment in response to the religious party’s demands.

Some Alignment leaders were reported to be urging the Premier to present his proposed new Government to the Knesset on December 27 with or without the religious party. The report implied that the Premier could present a coalition without participation of the religious party.

The National Religious Party has demanded that work be stopped on Saturdays at the new port of Ashdod although other ports are in operation. It also renewed its demand for a national Sabbath law–a measure which died in the Fifth Parliament. The leftist Mapam and the Independent Liberal Party informed the negotiators that the concessions to the religious bloc had already gone too far and would upset the status quo which has been the basis of all coalition platforms until now.

The opposing positions on the religious issues were reported to the Premier in the hospital by Mrs. Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, who has participated in the Cabinet negotiations. Meanwhile, Transport Minister Moshe Carmel declared in Parliament today that the new Ashdod port would operate on the Sabbath whenever it was necessary, despite strong Orthodox protests. He pointed out that this was the policy now in effect at the Haifa port, He noted that work in the ports falls in the category of special permission under the present work hours laws.

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