JERUSALEM (Dec. 3)
Premier Golda Meir who appeared to have firm control of political events only two months ago, is in serious difficulties in her attempts to form a new national coalition government that will include all of the country’s major political factions. Mrs. Meir asked for and received from President Zalman Shazar last Sunday a ten day extension in which to accomplish the government-building task that she failed to complete during the first 21days of her mandate.
Mrs. Meir’s efforts to form a national coalition government have been thwarted so far by a sharp ideological polarization among the political factions that must be included in any broadly based coalition. These differences have been “seemingly impossible to accommodate,” Washington post correspondent Alfred Friendly reported from Jerusalem today. He predicted that “whatever the outcome, the prime minister will be left with an uneasy and feuding cabinet within the ranks of her own Labor Party, quite apart from the Mapam-Gahal fight.”
Under Israeli law, Mrs. Meir will be entitled to a final 11-day period after the present extension expires. But the idea of requesting more time is said to be personally distasteful to the 71-year-old Premier. Some political observers say she will not ask for another extension but will either relinquish her mandate if she fails to form a broadly based government to try to set up a coalition between her Labor Alignment and one of the minor parties, probably the Independent Liberals.
Such a coalition would be a fragile one, especially at a time when Israel faces a worsening Middle East situation and many serious problems on the home front. Therefore Mrs. Meir has been trying desperately to form a coalition that will include Gahal (Herut-Liberal Alignment) the nation’s second largest political party, and the National Religious Party which ran third in the Oct. 28 Knesset elections.
Originally Mrs. Meir left the hard bargaining to an inter-party committee headed by minister of Justice Yaacov Shimshon Shapiro. The committee made progress as long as general issues were discussed. But when it came to the crucial question of allocating portfolios among the coalition partners, the bargaining collapsed.