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Religious Parties Seen As Holding Balance of Power

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The religious parties and especially Agudath Israel, which raised its representation from four to five seats — have emerged holding the balance in the tenth Knesset and therefore in the next government.

Likud Justice Minister Moshe Nissim declared tonight, minutes after initial results, that Likud was “the only political party able to form a government.” He said the government would continue as now to be based on a Likud-religious coalition.

Labor spokesmen maintained that the religious parties should not be regarded as one solid bloc. Haim Barlev, Labor Secretary-General, insisted that the majority of Israelis opposed “greater Israel” policies and other Labor figures added that Agudath Israel is among that majority.

Together with Agudah and with one or two of the tiny parties, Labor could conceivably amass sufficient support to form a minority government which would pass its Knesset test of fire thanks to the deliberate abstention of the Rakah Communists (likely to return five seats). Labor’s Gad Yaacobi said tonight that his party would indeed be prepared to resort to this tacit Communist support “if that is the only way to prevent a Begin government.”

Meanwhile Agudah leaders say they did not rule out talks with Labor — but they considered the idea of joining Labor in a coalition “remote and unlikely.”

Observers said that while official figures on the number of voters was not yet known, it was generally agreed that the turnout had been less than that for the 1977 election.

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