JERUSALEM (May. 22)
Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin is making a supreme effort to form a Cabinet within the 48 hours remaining before he must report success or failure to President Ephraim Katzir. Rabin is said to be determined to present a new government to the President this Friday. But the distribution of key portfolios poses a major problem. As of today it still wasn’t clear who would fill what post, though Shimon Peres, a Rafi stalwart, emerged as the most likely candidate to succeed Moshe Dayan as Minister of Defense.
The Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Finance also pose serious problems for Rabin, Yigal Allon, the Deputy Premier and Education Minister in the outgoing care-taker government, reportedly wants a more substantive post in the new regime and has expressed interest in the Foreign Ministry. But he is reluctant to edge out his old colleague, Abba Eban, unless the latter agrees to step down. One solution reportedly under consideration is to name Eban as Deputy Premier with wide powers. But there is also the possibility that Rabin, whose relations with Eban have not been of the best, will not invite him to join the new government.
Leadership of the Finance Ministry hinges on Pinhas Sapir’s decision whether or not to remain in the government. Sapir has repeatedly stated publicly that he did not want to serve in the new Cabinet and has intimated that he would seek the chairmanship of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Executives. Sapir’s colleagues are trying desperately to get him to change his mind, and the Finance Minister, long the Labor Party’s “strong man,” is known as a man of surprises. Yehoshua Rabinowitz, who has been mentioned as the most likely candidate for Finance Minister should Sapir step down, now says he prefers to retain the Housing Ministry, his portfolio in the care-taker regime. Shlomo Nakdimon, the usually well informed political reporter of Yediot Achronot, published a possible list of key ministers in a government headed by Rabin. According to Nakdimon, either Allon or Eban will be named Deputy Premier with expanded authority including participation in all decisions and direct responsibility for the “Mossad,” Israel’s intelligence network.
The Defense Ministry will probably go to Peres, but it could be assigned to Allon or Haim Barlev or be taken over by Rabin himself, Nakdimon said. The Foreign Ministry could go to Allon or be retained by Eban. Gen. Aharon Yariv, the negotiator of the Israeli-Egyptian disengagement agreement, is expected to be named Information Minister according to Nakdimon. Moshe Bar’Am, leader of the Labor Party in Jerusalem will succeed Rabin as Minister of Labor; Aharon Uzan, currently Minister of Communications, will be named Minister of Agriculture; the Ministry of Commerce and Industry will be retained by Barlev or assigned to Gad Yaacobi, Nakdimon predicted.
(A new name, that of Israel’s UN Ambassador Yosef Tekoah, came up today as a possible candidate for the post of Information Minister, now held by Peres. Tekoah has been absent from his UN post for the past two weeks. He returned to Israel about two weeks ago on what he called a “private visit,” according to sources. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency leaned, however, that Tekoah was summoned by Rabin to discuss the possibility of his joining the new government. Tekoah’s relationship with Rabin was reportedly less than perfect while the latter was Israel’s Ambassador in Washington. But the two diplomats are said to have reconciled their differences before Tekoah’s return to Israel.)