JERUSALEM (Jun. 7)
President Ephraim Katzir officially asked Likud leader Menachem Begin today to form a new government. In undertaking the task, Begin announced that he would attempt to persuade the Labor Alignment to join Likud in a national unity government. Failing that, he will nevertheless form a government and present his Cabinet to the Knesset for approval within three weeks, Begin said during a brief ceremony at the President’s residence.
Begin, who will meet with Premier Yitzhak Rabin Thursday to discuss the transfer of power, disclosed he will also meet with Labor Alignment leader Shimon Peres this week to try to convince him to join an all-party coalition. He said that Likud and the Labor Alignment were in agreement on basic issues such as their objection to a Palestinian state, refusal to withdraw to Israel’s 1967 borders and their opposition to PLO participation in any negotiations for a Mideast peace settlement. Begin said he was aware of differences that exist between his party and Labor but he felt that an agreement could be reached between them.
Israeli law gives Begin 21 days to form a government and an additional 21 days if needed. Should he be unable to establish a government within the 42-day limit, the law requires the President to assign the task to another Knesset member, most probably the leader of the second largest party. But Begin is convinced that he can put together a majority Cabinet well within the deadline. Likud, and Gen. Ariel Sharon’s Shlomzion movement which merged with it last week will control 45 seats in the next Knesset. If Moshe Dayan, who has left the Labor Party but retains his Knesset seat, joins Likud, it will have 46 votes plus 12 from the National Religious Party (NRP) which is considered virtually certain to join a Likud-led government. It could pick up four more from the Agudat Israel which has agreed to join a coalition subject to approval by its Council of Sages.
EXPECT DMC TO JOIN
That would give Likud a slim majority of 62 votes in the next Knesset. But Likud circles expressed confidence today that Prof. Yigael Yadin’s Democratic Movement for Change (DMC) will agree to join the coalition adding 15 Knesset seats for a comfortable government majority of 77. Likud and the DMC resumed their negotiations today. (See separate story Page 3)
One of the stumbling blocks is Begin’s nomination of Dayan to be Foreign Minister, a portfolio sought by the DMC. Political circles believe that Begin will have his way and that the DMC will be mollified by offering Yadin the chairmanship of a senior ministerial committee on foreign affairs and defense.
Begin has still another problem with respect to Leon Dulzin of Likud’s Liberal Party wing who had expected to be named Foreign Minister. It was learned today that Begin has proposed that Dulzin be given the rank of Deputy Premier and in addition, receive the portfolio of a new Ministry for Jewish Nation Affairs that would put him in charge of immigration and absorption.
If Likud has its way, it will hold eight Cabinet portfolios, including the key ministries. The Herut wing will receive four, including one reserved for Gen. Sharon, the Liberals three and the State List one.