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Coalition Talks in Crucial Stage

Premier Yitzhak Rabin conferred with his coalition partners and potential partners today in an effort to smooth the way to enlarging his government by inclusion of the National Religious Party. The NRP is expected to decide, at a meeting next Thursday, to accept Rabin’s formal Invitation to Join his Cabinet. The Premier made the invitation official at a two-hour meeting with an NRP delegation on Tuesday. Last night the Labor Party’s Central Committee gave its overwhelming approval to Rabin’s move.

The vote was 151-2 with five abstentions. But Rabin must now overcome resistance to the NRP in his other coalition partners–Mapam, the Civil Rights Party and the Independent Liberal Party. He met today with delegations of the ILP, Mapam and the CRP to clarify the terms of the NRP’s admission to the government, namely, that it accept coalition discipline. But Moshe Kol, of the ILP, demanded clarification of the NRP’s announcement that it would vote against any territorial concessions on the West Bank.

Mapam representatives Meir Talmi, Naftali Feder and Health Minister Victor Shemtov repeated their demand, made originally last week, that the NRP dissociate itself from the illegal settlement movement. The CRP, headed by Knesseter Shulamit Aloni, opposed any changes in the status quo on religious matters that would expand Orthodox influence in national affairs. Ms. Aloni said after today’s meeting that her faction would reserve its decision on remaining in the coalition until it knows the details of Labor’s final agreement with the NRP.

NRP REMAINS. DIVIDED ON ISSUE

The NRP is believed to be demanding four Cabinet portfolios as part of its price for joining the coalition. It held only three in the government of former Premier Golda Meir. This and other details are expected to be ironed out in further talks with Rabin. At this juncture. however, the religious faction is still divided. NRP secretary general Zvi Bernstein predicted after last Tuesday’s meeting with Rabin that his party would agree to join the government.

But Dr. Yehuda Ben Meir, an NRP MK who is a leader of the party’s militant “Young Guard.” said he was not convinced that there was any more basis to join the government now than there was after earlier rounds of negotiations. In fact, according to Ben Meir, the situation has worsened in some respects from the NRP’s point of view. He said his party was not satisfied with the government’s stand on political matters or on the question of unauthorized settlements on the West Bank.

The NRP’s rank and file ardently supports the settlement movement. The Rabin government has condemned attempts to settle in the administered Arab territories without authorization and regards it as a partisan political act.

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