JERUSALEM (Feb. 25)
Premier Golda Meir was hard at work today trying to form a minority government which most political pundits believe will not last out a four-year term and may in fact collapse within a few months, necessitating new elections. Mrs. Meir hopes to present her Cabinet to President Ephraim Katzir this week and to the Knesset next Monday. A Knesset vote of confidence is not at all certain and lack of it would bring down the new government before it got started.
The Premier’s most immediate problems lie within her own Labor Alignment. She must also bargain with the Independent Liberal Party, which, after the National Religious Party’s defection last week became her chief coalition partner. The ILP is expected to receive two portfolios against the single one held by Tourism Minister Moshe Kol in the outgoing government.
Mrs. Meir apparently still hopes to persuade Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Transport Minister Shimon Peres, leaders of the ex-Rafi faction, to participate in her new Cabinet. But the chances that they will reconsider their decision not to serve dwindled. At a meeting of the party’s Central Committee last night many Rafi supporters argued that their faction should abstain in the Knesset vote of confidence in the new government and force new elections. The Rafi group will meet here tomorrow to adopt a final position.
THE OLIVE BRANCH AND THORN
The NRP is also expected to decide tomorrow whether to abstain–as one of its leaders, Yitzhak Rafael has been urging–or to vote no confidence in the government as outgoing Interior Minister Yosef Burg demands. Mrs. Meir still entertains the hope that the NRP will eventually join her coalition despite the Chief Rabbinate’s ban against its Joining a government that refuses to amend the Law of Return according to Orthodox demands.
By continuing to extend an olive branch to the NRP, Mrs. Meir is running into difficulties with the ILP and is foregoing a chance to establish a majority government, albeit one with the very slim majority. That would be possible if the Premier agreed to the ILP’s urging that she invite Mrs. Shulamit Aloni to add her three-seat Civil Rights List to the government coalition, raising the government’s 58 Knesset votes to 61, a majority of one. Mrs. Meir has refused so far, contending that to include the vehemently, secular Mrs. Aloni in her Cabinet would foreclose any chances of the NRP Joining, Political observers are quick to point out that Mrs. Meir also harbors an intense personal dislike for the outspoken Mrs. Aloni.
The Premier has also resisted ILP demands that its second Cabinet portfolio, almost certain to go to Gideon Hausner, the Eichmann prosecute or, be the vacant Justice Ministry. She insists that the ILP accept a ministry without portfolio in order to reserve three Cabinet posts for the NRP. The Justice Ministry is expected to go to Laborite Haim Zadok, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The ILP Is meeting today and is expected to concur with the Premier’s wishes.
LUBAVLTCHER REBBE BLASTED
At the Labor Party Central Committee meeting last night the Premier had some harsh word against the alleged intervention of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Israel’s current domestic troubles. According to press reports, the Brooklyn, NY based Rebbe who is spiritual leader of Israel’s large community of Habad hasidim, said “This is the time to get rid of the Socialist regime in Israel.”
Said Mrs. Meir, “We have reached a stage when instructions are received from Brooklyn to get rid of Socialism. He (the Rebbe) should not give such instructions to his Habad people or to the NRP. It is a catastrophe and I do not know how they will overcome it.” Mrs. Meir added that it appeared that the NRP saw its natural place in alliance with Likud.