JERUSALEM (Aug. 3)
Premier Menachem Begin indicated today that he had no objections to holding the elections earlier than October, 1981 when his government’s four and-a-half year term would end. “There is no need to wait for the elections until October, “he said. “We can hold them in 10 months.”
Begin’s remarks were made to the Cabinet in response to a request from Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai to raise the rates for electricity following the recent increases in the price of oil.
“One cannot raise prices every week,” Begin said turning to Finance Minister Yigal Hurwitz. “This is the last year before the elections. If the price hikes continue, the situation in the elections will not be comfortable, Even the Polish don’t suffer that much of price increases.” The proposal for a rate increase was referred to the Ministerial Economic Committee.
This was the first time that Begin had indicated readiness for early elections. Until now he had insisted that the government would serve its entire term. However, many in Israel are calling for an election even sooner than 10 months from now.
DIFFERENT VIEWS ON THE ELECTIONS
Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres said that as of today the government should be regarded as “interim” government instead of an election next June, as Begin has now proposed, it should be held within six weeks to three months, Peres said.
Deputy Premier Simcha Ehrlich, a leader of the Liberal Party wing of Likud, said he would propose advancing the elections when the Likud Executive meets tomorrow. “A government cannot function properly when it has to depend on vacillating Knesseters,” he said. “Today they are here and the next day they are there.”
Ehrlich noted that the government coalition when it had almost 80 Knesseters against 40 for the opposition was able to maneuver. “This has dwindled and no proper work can be done when a result of a vote depends on Knesseters on the fence.”
Interior Minister Yosef Burg of the National Religious Party is scheduled to report to the NRP Executive Wednesday. He made no secret of his support for early elections.
Begin noted that the next election will be a poll of “for and not against; in favor of the protection of Judaea and Samaria, the security of Israel, against the endangering of the nation, and against a Palestinian state which the (Labor) Alignment may bring.”
OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCES TAMIR’S RESIGNATION
Begin’s comments may have been a reaction to the resignation last Thursday of one of his key ministers, Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir of the Democratic Movement. The two met before the Cabinet went into session today and Begin opened the meeting with the official announcement of Tamir’s resignation.
Tamir said he would continue to support the government coalition as a member of Knesset. He said that although he had considerable criticism of “the Begin government, he believed it deserved considerable credit. “I don’t want this government to fail, neither do I want the Alignment to return to power,” he said. Tamir said he resigned because the DM’s number of Knesset members had been reduced to three following the resignation of Akiva Noff last Thursday. He said he had rejected an offer from Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin, the leader of the DM, to resign in Tamir’s place. The three remaining DM Knesset members are Yadin, Tamir and Binyamin Halevy.
The Premier, declaring that Tamir had performed an excellent job as Justice Minister, said he had tried to convince him to change his mind. But he said Tamir said this was impossible because of the public statements he made when he announced his resignation.
Meanwhile, Begin not only has to find a new Justice Minister but still must find a Defense Minister. He has been acting Defense Minister since Ezer Weizman resigned. Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who had been stated to get the Defense Ministry portfolio if objections among some members of the coalition could be overcome, now indicates he doesn’t want the past. He said in a television interview over the weekend that he intends to stay on as Foreign Minister.