Jerusalem (Jan. 14)
The prospect of elections in June was strengthened today when two coalition parties, the Democratic Movement and Aguda Israel, openly supported the idea. Nevertheless, last-minute efforts were still underway by Housing Minister David Levy, Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon and Commerce and Industry Minister Gideon Patt, to put together a Knesset majority that could last until November.
Well-placed political observers said however that there was no real hope that these efforts would convince a majority of the coalition to re-think the June-election prospect. Deputy Premier Simcha Ehrlich was expected to tell television viewers tonight that the majority in his Liberal Party favors holding the election in June.
The DM empowered one of its three MKs, Binyamin Halevy, to present a private members bill today setting the election date for June 16. He said he felt the coalition and ultimately the opposition too could unite around that date.
The four-man Aguda faction is understood to have resolved by a 3-1 majority to support June elections. The one dissenting voice was that of MK Shlomo Gross. The party’s executive is expected to take the same decision at a meeting tomorrow, formally endorsing the faction’s view-point.
Aguda sources explained today that their party felt it had achieved notable successes during the present Knesset term and wanted to go to the electorate on the basis of those achievements. Any delay now in calling elections could jeopardize some of Aguda’s successes.
THE SITUATION OF AGUDA
The Aguda sources referred to a bill that passed its first reading in the Knesset today calling for obligatory social service by young women who do not enlist in the army. The bill was presented by Geula Cohen of the Tehiya faction. The Aguda is opposed to drafting women.
Similarly, in the mounting election fever, the Knesset Finance Committee decided by a majority vote today not to approve certain government grants to Aguda-affiliated institutions. Likud members joined with the Labor opposition against the allocations. Commenting on these developments, an Aguda leader told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that “There is no point in artificially propping up the government by parliamentary tricks.”
Without Aguda and the DM, Likud and the National Religious Party have no majority by any calculations. Therefore, it seemed to observers today that Levy’s efforts to shore up the government were doomed to fail. It was noted, however, that Aguda and the DM are capable of reversing their stands overnight.
The Likud Knesset faction meeting with Premier Menachem Begin to decide an election date is scheduled for Friday morning. Early today there were reports that it would be postponed to allow more time for Levy’s efforts to bear fruit. But sources close to Begin said the meeting would be held as planned.