TEL AVIV (Apr. 17)
The Labor Party may have set itself an impossible task when its Executive and Knesset faction voted 31-13 last night to try to form a new government without new elections, some of the party’s top leaders have indicated. Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir said bluntly that it could not be done, mainly because the National Religious Party will not join a new coalition unless its demands are met. Sapir was among the minority of Labor Party Executive and Knesset faction leaders who voted for new elections.
Another was Deputy Premier Yigal Allon. He told reporters last night that new elections might have been avoided if the Labor Party had reopened the election lists to admit new candidates right after the Yom Kippur War. But the mistake was made and new elections are inevitable, Allon said.
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan did not participate in last night’s party vote. But he told a meeting of former Rafi members that he would not support any candidate for the Premiership who disagreed with his views on domestic or foreign policy. He said several potential candidates were in that category but mentioned no names. Rafi is insisting on either a national coalition government embracing Likud opposition or new elections at the earliest possible date.
The Labor Party is working against a firm deadline set by President Ephraim Katzir who gave it no more than 10-14 days to come up with a new leader and start the Cabinet-building process. Katzir has also made it clear that he will not tolerate a drawn out process such as was the case from Jan. to March.
PARTY FACES SAME DIFFICULTIES
The party faces the same difficulties that faced Premier Meir last Jan. when she began the arduous task of putting together a Labor-led coalition embracing such antipathetical elements as the National Religious Party and the Independent Liberals. If anything, the difficulties have increased with the deteriorating situation on the Syrian front the upsurge of terrorist activity inside Israel, publication of the Agranat Committee’s partial report on the Yom Kippur War and the emergence of a unified grass roots protest movement.
The NRP, which decided to join Mrs. Meir’s coalition against bitter opposition from within its own ranks and from the Chief Rabbinate last month, is not now in a position to withstand that pressure. Given the weakened condition of the Labor Party after Mrs. Meir’s resignation, the NRP is expected to hold out for a national unity government and insist that the Who is a Jew issue be resolved according to Orthodox demands.
The ILP, however, is more adamant than ever against any concessions to the religious party. Together with Mapam, which shares its views on religious Issues, it could deadlock coalition talks. The ILP in fact is anxious for new elections. It feels it can improve its position by creating a Liberal alignment that would include elements of the protest movement and Mrs. Shulamit Aloni’s Civil Rights Party.