Eshkol’s Efforts to Form New Cabinet Hampered by Religious Bloc

The executive committee of the National Religious Party, which has been in lengthy negotiations with Prime Minister Levi Eshkol over his efforts to include the NRP in the new coalition government which he is trying to form, decided today that further negotiations are required before a decision is taken on the issue. As “matters stand now,” the committee decided, “there is no basis for entering the coalition” at this time.

The NRP leadership instructed its 13-member negotiating team to continue talks with Mr. Eshkol and with the other leaders of the Mapai Party-Achdut Avoda alignment, and to report back to the executive.

Mr. Eshkol had been given by President Salman Shazar an extension until January 9 for reporting on his efforts to set up the new Cabinet, necessitated by the reshuffle of Israel’s Knesset (Parliament) as a result of last month’s elections. The principal dispute between Mr. Eshkol and the NRP concerns insistence by the religious group upon banning of all operations in the new port of Ashdod on the Sabbath. The NRP demands also other stringent Sabbath regulations.

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