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Katzir to Take Steps to Form a Transition Government

President Ephraim Katzir will begin consultations with various party leaders next Sunday and will eventually ask one of them to form a transition government to govern Israel until elections are held. The Knesset is expected to dissolve itself late next week and set an election date, probably in mid-May.

But judging from developments today, the transition regime will not be a peaceful one. A major battle is looming in the Labor Party where Defense Minister Shimon Peres is about to launch an all-out challenge against Premier Yitzhak Rabin for leadership of the party. If he wins, he will head the Labor list on election day and, assuming a Labor victory, would probably become Israel’s next Premier.

Likud, meanwhile, is seeking a temporary coalition with other factions to build sufficient support to convince President Katzir to name it to head the transition government. Likud reportedly was trying to woo the Rafi faction of the Labor Party, headed by Peres, to bolt Labor and form a bloc with it.

But sources close to Peres said today that the Defense Minister has not been approached by any other party. The sources said that Peres will formally announce his candidacy for Labor Party leadership and claimed he had a good chance to defeat Rabin whose stewardship has been criticized from within the party.

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in fact, one of the closest supporters. Justice Minister Chaim Zadok, appeared to modify his previous opposition to a challenge by Peres. Only a few weeks ago, Zadok stated that it was improper and undignified for a sitting Cabinet minister to run against the Premier and that anyone with such ambitions should first resign.

But on a radio interview today, Zadok noted that the Cabinet is now a caretaker government from which no minister can resign under Israeli law. According to observers, Zadok implied that Peres is now free to contest party leadership with Rabin without relinquishing his portfolio and that he, Zadok, would do nothing to prevent him from doing so.

Rabin officially announced his government’s resignation to the Knesset today. During the debate that followed, Likud leader Menachem Beigin demanded that Rabin cancel his January trip to Washington to meet with President Carter. He told Rabin, “On Jan. 20 Carter will legally represent the majority of Americans who elected him President but you, when you go to meet him, will represent a minority in the Knesset and a minority of the people in this country.”

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