JERUSALEM (Sep. 29)
The National Religious Party was reported today to be considering an offer by Premier Yitzhak Rabin that it join his coalition government without pre-conditions. The offer reportedly included a promise that the issue of conversions will be taken up by a special ministerial committee that would be established as soon as the NRP enters the Cabinet.
Rabin’s offer does not alter the status quo on religious matters. Earlier this year, the NRP Joined the Cabinet of former Premier Golda Meir on the same basis despite bitter opposition, from the Chief Rabbinate and Orthodox circles abroad. But mounting pressure from giants within its own ranks kept the NRP from ###ing the Rabin government without a resolution of the Who is a Jew controversy.
Labor Party circles say the NRP is now ready to join if the ministerial committee is authorized to suspend the registration of immigrant converts pending a final decision. The Independent Liberal Party is also prepared to go along with Rabin’s latest offer. But it will oppose the registration freeze in the ministerial committee, ILP leader Gideon Hausner said.
The position of the Citizens Rights Movement, Rabin’s other coalition partner, remained uncertain today. Its leader, Shulamit Aloni, has threatened to quit the government if the NRP joins. But there are indications that she too may be satisfied with Rabin’s latest approach.
MAPAM DIVIDED OVER NRP ENTRY
Meanwhile, the possibility of the NRP entering the coalition government has divided Mapam. the party which along with the Labor Party makes up the Labor Alignment. While veteran Mapam leaders Meir Talmi and Naftali Feder appear to favor the inclusion of the NRP, opposition is coming from young Mapam members, who are demanding certain conditions. Mapam youth are opposed to the freeze on converts noting that this might undermine the democratic principle of equality under the law.
At a meeting last week with NRP leader Dr. Joseph Burg and party secretary Zvi Bernstein, Mapam MKs Dov Zakin and Hillel Ashkenazi stressed that Mapam opposes the proposed registration freeze compromise. They also demanded a quick decision from the NRP on its readiness to make territorial concessions so that negotiations with Jordan can begin. Dr, Burg said there must be no hurry in withdrawing from the territories and that there is no need to talk with Jordan at the same time Israel negotiates with Egypt. But, he said, should there be an agreement with Jordan it must be approved by a referendum.
The meeting ended in a friendly atmosphere and there were indications additional meetings will be held between the two parties.