Formation of New Government Awaits Further Inter-party Talks

While ranking government ministers conferred in Jerusalem over the weekend with U.S. Secretary of State Henry A, Kissinger, the formation of a new government that will have to make the basic decisions affecting Israel’s future marked time. The Labor Party is seeking to re-establish its old coalition with the Independent Liberals and the National Religious Party and possibly to invite the Aguda bloc to assure it of a comfortable working majority of over 70 Knesset seats.

But the NRP is committed by its pre-election pledges to demand a broad-based national coalition government including Likud and is under severe pressure from its “young guard” to press that position with utmost vigor. The ILP, meanwhile, has strengthened its position by forming a parliamentary bloc with the new Civil Rights Party, and while they see eye-to-eye with Labor on foreign policy, they are unalterably opposed to stricter religious enforcement which is the NRP’s price for joining a Labor-led coalition.

Labor for its part has ruled out a national coalition with Likud under any circumstances. While inter-party negotiations were in abeyance over the weekend. Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir, the party’s chief negotiator on coalition matters, made Labor’s position unmistakably clear, Sapir spoke on Kol Israel and the Armed Forces radio, gave interviews to the dailies Maariv and Davar and addressed economic editors over the weekend. On each of these forums he argued that a national government that included Likud would mean a paralyzed government.

A Cabinet that included Likud would get no work done and would jeopardize all movement toward a peace settlement, the Finance Minister told his various audiences. He said that Labor, therefore, wanted a coalition that included the NRP and possibly the Aguda, though he acknowledged that the latter’s extreme demands on religious matters probably precluded it from participating in the new government. He expressed the view nevertheless that the Aguda could be counted on to support the government on foreign policy issues even if it remained in the opposition.

As for the NRP’s stand. Sapir said he intended to ask the NRP negotiators when they meet again if they represent the full party or only a fraction of it. The NRP’s younger element, represented by MKs Zevulun Hammer and Yehuda Ben Meir, have warned that they would not hesitate to split the party if its leadership backed down on a national coalition with Likud. (By Yitzhak Shargil)

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