TEL AVIV (Jun. 12)
Likud leader Menachem Begin and Prof. Yigael Yadin, leader of the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC) met for 90 minutes today in what many viewed as a final attempt to reach agreement on political guidelines that would open the way for DMC participation in a Likud-led coalition government. The DMC National Council will convene in the next two days to decide whether or not to join a Likud regime. According to informed sources the Council was about evenly split at this moment with possibly a small majority unwilling to accept Likud’s terms.
The prospects that Begin will be able to form a broadly-based government with the DMC appeared to dim over the weekend. Likud flatly rejected key proposals by the DMC calling for the new government to state its readiness for territorial compromise in exchange for peace and demanding veto power over any new Jewish settlements on the West Bank. DMC sources also reported that Begin adopted a tough, almost insulting tone toward Yadin after the ultra-orthodox Agudo Israel agreed to participate in a parliamentary coalition with Likud, thereby assuring it of a 63 vote majority in the Knesset. Begin announced that he intended to form a government, with or without the DMC, by June 20, just a day before the crucial Histadrut elections.
LIKUD LEAVES DOOR OPEN
According to DMC sources, Yadin asked Begin at their last meeting Thursday what Cabinet posts his party could expect. Begin was said to have replied, “I have three ministerial posts for you. Yadin will be Deputy Premier and Minister for Social Betterment and there will be two more important ministries. I cannot remember which.” DMC circles were hurt by what they regarded as Begin’s cavalier attitude and wondered, if the ministries were important, how he could “forget” which they were.
But Likud apparently realized that it was not handling the situation properly and let it be known that the door was still open to a coalition agreement with the DMC. At their meeting today Begin and Yadin were reported to be seeking a political guideline phrased in general terms acceptable to both parties. Yosef Burg, leader of the National Religious Party (NRP) which has already reached a coalition agreement with Likud, also met with Yadin to try to persuade the DMC to join the government.
CALLS ELECTORAL REFORM KEY ISSUE
Yadin, addressing the Tel Aviv Industrial and Commercial Club luncheon Friday, said his party would be ready to join a Likud-led coalition if it had firm assurances that it could exert an influence on national policies. He said the most important matter was the DMC’s demand for electoral reform, something Likud has already rejected out of hand. The DMC wants the next government to agree to elections in two years under a system of direct balloting for Knesset members rather than for party lists. This would mean going before the electorate two years before the government’s legal term of office expires.
But Yadin insisted that this issue would test the credibility of the DMC in the eyes of the people who voted for its list. Electoral reform was one of its major campaign issues.
The DMC’s trump card seems to be a Begin’s strong desire for a broad-based regime. Although he can form a majority government with the religious parties, it would be a tenuous one, hardly representative of the political spectrum in Israel. If the DMC joins his coalition, the Likud government would command a comfortable majority of 78 votes in the Knesset. Such a government would greatly strengthen Begin’s position when he meets with President Carter in Washington next month.