TEL AVIV (Oct. 20)
The leadership of the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC) voted 14-1 last night to join the coalition government headed by Premier Menachem Begin. Ratification of the decision by the DMC’s central committee which meets tonight is considered a foregone conclusion and mere formality.
The decision, which came after five months of intermittent negotiations with Likud, was immediately blasted by the Labor Party as an unconditional surrender. Some members of the DMC, particularly its doveish Shinooy (Change) faction, agreed. But DMC leader Prof. Yigael Yadin defended the move which he said was in the interests of national unity.
Yadin, who returned from a speaking tour in the U.S. Tuesday, told his colleagues that the general feeling among American Jewish leaders and at the Israeli Embassy in Washington was that Israel is nearing a fateful confrontation with the U.S., the toughest it has ever had, and that the Israeli government therefore must have the broadest possible political base.
Yadin said the DMC could not ignore the opinion of American Jews who are convinced it should join the coalition because the present government is not now strong enough to wage the political struggle. Yadin said he viewed the present situation as one of emergency and that it would be disloyal under such conditions to remain outside to the government.
Yadin said he had concluded there was no need for further negotiations with Likud because “in negotiations there is always an erosion of one’s principles.Yadin said he had concluded there was no need for further negotiations with Likud because “in negotiations there He had indicated, during his meetings with Jewish groups in the U.S. that the DMC sees eye-to-eye with Likud on crucial foreign policy matters such as Israel’s refusal to return to its 1967 borders, to accept the creation of a Palestinian state or to have any dealings with the PLO.
MAJOR POLITICAL VICTORY FOR BEGIN
The DMC decision represents a major political victory for Begin whose coalition with the small religious factions controls only 63 Knesset seats, a precariously slim majority in the 120-member parliament. The addition for the DMC’s 15 seats to the coalition for a total of 78 will strengthen Begin’s hand in both domestic and foreign policy, particularly his troubled dealings with Washington on Geneva conference issues. The Premier was very pleased with the DMC’s move which he hailed as “patriotic” after a meeting with Yadin today. The DMC and Likud leaders drank a toast to their new partnership.
The agreement with the DMC represented a compromise on basic issues over which there are still wide gaps between that faction and the present coalition. It allows the DMC freedom of expression and the right to abstain in Knesset votes on subjects concerning the West Bank.
Government decisions on new settlements will be discussed in the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee if a DMC minister so demands. The DMC is given freedom to vote as it chooses on religious issues. In that connection, Begin reassured a deputation from his ultra-Orthodox Aguda bloc coalition partners that the agreement with the DMC will not affect the concessions he made to them on religious matters.
DMC TO GET THREE PORTFOLIOS
The DMC will receive three Cabinet portfolios that have been left vacant: the Justice Ministry, Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Ministry of Labor and Social Betterment. Yadin will be named Deputy Premier and will serve as Acting Premier in Begin’s absence. However, he will not have the automatic right to succeed Begin. The other DMC ministers will be Meir Amit, Shmuel Tamir and Meir Zorea, although Zorea might be replaced by Dr. Israel Katz.
A compromise was also reached on electoral reform where the key issue separating the DMC and Likud had been the number of election districts to be created once Israel switches from the present party list system to direct election of Knesset members. The agreement stipulates that a five-man committee will be formed to decide on the number of districts–between six and sixteen–and will submit its recommendations within a specified time limit. It was also agreed that the next Knesset elections will be conducted under the new system.
VOICES OF OPPOSITION
The Shinooy faction remains opposed. Its leader, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, who was number-two man on the party’s election list last May, said today: “Our movement has lost its independence, has lost its way and gave up the principles for which it stood and for which it received its mandate from the voters.” His colleague, Mordechai Virshuvsky, said it was the DMC’s duty to bring about the downfall of the Likud government, not strengthen it by joining.
Labor Party leaders charged that the DMC has become a satellite of Likud. But Labor, despite its 32 seats in the Knesset, now appears more isolated politically than it was after its election defeat.
(In New York, the DMC move was termed a “long-dreaded surrender” of their program “for several Cabinet posts” by the Americans for Progressive Israel-Hashomer Hatzair (API-HH). Linda Rubin, executive director of API-HH, said the move by DMC “has left the Progressive Zionist Movement in both Israel and the United States stunned and disappointed.”
(Ms. Rubin said her organization, which is affiliated ideologically with Mapam in Israel, “regrets that the DMC’s declared election platform calling for territorial compromise in return for peace with the Arab states was forgotten for the sake of political expediency.” She said that the DMC has followed “the worn road of political pragmatism which can only further disillusion the Israeli public.” As a result of DMC’s decision, Ms. Rubin added, “it would seem to have eliminated the party as a force in the Israeli electorate and to have tarnished its image as a movement for true change.”)