JERUSALEM (Mar. 11)
The National Religious Party’s leading minister, Interior Minister Yosef Burg, told newsmen here today that the new coalition agreement was better than any of its predecessors and included religious and moral achievements. Burg, who held a news conference to explain why the NRP had joined the government after its previous refusal, maintained that neither Chief Rabbi had actually forbidden the NRP from joining the government.
The Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef had refused to involve himself in this political question, saying he left it to the politicians. The Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren ruled in the Chief Rabbinate Council that “there were no grounds to permit” NRP’s joining, but he had in private conversation with Burg not expressly forbidden the party to join, Burg claimed.
He pointed out that the coalition negotiations had resulted in the NRP achievement whereby the other parties recognized that conversion was a halachic concept. NRP’s joining the government had saved the Labor Alignment from falling to the mercies of the left-wingers such as Shulamit Aloni’s party which was anti-religious, Burg contended.
In addition to Burg, the NRP’s Knesset faction selected Michael Hazani and Yitzhak Rafael to fill the posts of Minister of Social Welfare and Minister of Religious Affairs, respectively, in the new Cabinet. Rafael, who was not in the old Cabinet, replaces Dr. Zerach Warhaftig. The party is trying to persuade Warhaftig to accept a ministry without portfolio offered the NRP by Premier Golda Meir.
The way was cleared for the NRP to enter the government when the party’s court acted last Friday to rescind an injunction that barred it from joining the coalition pending a final decision by the central committee. The central committee has not met as yet but that meeting is now regarded as a formality and it is fully expected to approve the decision of the NRP executive to participate in the government.