JERUSALEM (Feb. 26)
Under Israeli law, the present coalition Cabinet may remain as a caretaker Government under Gen. Allon until national elections are held in November. Under Israel’s basic law–the “little constitution” President Zalman Shazar is required to start consultation with Knesset (Parliament) leaders on the formation of a new Government as soon as the traditional seven days of mourning are over. The candidate named by the President then has a maximum of 45 days to form a Cabinet. If he fails, another candidate must be named to try. Theoretically this process can continue until the elections with a caretaker Government in control, but the latter would lack the authority of a new Government formed and given a Knesset vote of confidence. For one thing, coalition discipline would not be binding on its members.
There is no lack of candidates. A likely successor until a short time ago was former Finance Minister Pinchas Sapir. He was considered by many to be the most powerful man in the Government and was the closest confidant of Mr. Eshkol. But Mr. Sapir, who is now a Minister Without Portfolio and secretary-general of the Israel Labor Party, is believed to have put himself out of the running by some “dovish statements”. He vehemently opposed the economic integration of the West Bank with Israel, a move favored by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.
Gen. Dayan, the hero of the 1956 Suez Campaign, is regarded by many Israelis as the architect of the 1967 victory. He is clearly the most popular candidate for the Premiership. But in Israel, Prime Ministers are not chosen by popular vote but by party secretariats and central committees. Knowledgeable observers believe the successful candidate will be a compromise figure chosen not for the number of his friends but for his lack of enemies. It is almost certain that the choice will be made by the Israel Labor Party which commands with its Mapam partner a majority in the Knesset. Among the other candidates most frequently mentioned are Mr. Allon, Foreign Minister Abba Eban and former Foreign Minister Golda Meir. Mrs. Meir is 71, ailing and an outspoken “hawk” but she may be proposed as an interim Premier pending elections.