JERUSALEM (Jan. 16)
President Ephraim Katzir met separately today with delegations from the Labor Party and Likud in the first official moves toward the formation of a new government. He will continue meetings tomorrow with the representatives of other factions. The President is expected to ask the Labor Alignment–the majority party–to form a new government within 42 days, but the period can be extended if necessary.
Katzir met for more than 2 1/2 hours with the Labor delegation headed by Knesset member Moshe Baram who reportedly suggested that Premier Golda Meir be entrusted to form a new government. He received the Likud delegation, headed by MK Yohanan Bader, this afternoon. Bader told reporters later that he had made no suggestions as to the next Prime Minister because “this is the task of Labor.” He said, however, that his delegation had discussed a wide range of topics with Katzir, including the possibility of a national coalition government.
Meanwhile, unofficial coalition talks continued today between Labor, the Independent Liberal Party and the National Religious Party on the formation of a new coalition along the lines of the outgoing coalition government.
DOOMED BEFORE THEY TAKE THE VOW
Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir who is masterminding the coalition negotiations for Labor is seeking to separate foreign policy from religious issues in talks with the NRP. The latter have been relegated to small working groups Labor is prepared to accept a coalition with NRP on the basis of the same formula or platform that prevailed in the outgoing coalition.
In an effort to speed up negotiations, Sapir suggested that the ILP be invited to participate in further talks with the NRP. The latter was reluctant, however, on grounds that the talks may be turned into a debate on state and religion.
The newly formed parliamentary bloc of the ILP and the Civil Rights Party appeared meanwhile, to be on the verge of breaking up. The issue is the demand by Mrs. Shulamit Aloni, head of the CRP, for freedom of conscience voting within any new coalition government on questions of religion, personal status and the position of women. She wants to make that demand an ultimatum for joining a Labor-led coalition. The ILP, while supporting freedom of conscience, refuses to make it an ultimative demand.