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Navon Begins Process Leading to Formation of the Next Government

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The process leading to the formation of the next Israeli government was begun by President Yitzhak Navon today. He met with delegations from Likud and the Labor Party for one hour each this morning and with representatives of the National Religious Party and Aguda Israel this afternoon. He will meet with Tami and with groups from the other parties tomorrow, for about 45 minutes each.

The President is required by law to consult with all parties elected to the new Knesset before deciding on the basis of their arguments and claims of probable support, which has the best chance to form a viable government. His next step is to summon the leader of that party and formally charge him with the task of putting a new government together.

The party selected has 21 days under law to accomplish this but can ask for an additional 21 days to find coalition partners. The results of the June 30 elections, the closest in Israel’s history, gave Likud 48 seats and Labor 47 seats in the 120-member Knesset. Since both the major parties fell far short of a majority, they must depend on the smaller parties to achieve the number of 61 Knesset mandates. Likud and Labor each claimed to be in the best position to do this. The Likud delegation urged Navon to call on Premier Menachem Begin to establish a government. They assured him that Likud, with the support of the NRP, Aguda and Tami, would muster the required 61 seats.

An hour later, the Labor delegation, emerging from Navon’s office, said they had told the President that party leader Shimon Peres could count on five mandates at the outset — two from Moshe Dayan’s Telem faction, two from Shinui (Change) and one from Shulamit Aloni’s Civil Rights Movement. In addition, they said a Labor government would be supported in the Knesset on major issues by Geula Cohen’s ultra-nationalist Tehiya faction with three mandates and the Rakah Communists with five and could thereby beat off no-confidence motions.

Such a combination would still be one vote short of a majority. But the Laborities claimed that Likud was assured only of 48 mandates and faced possible defections from its own ranks.

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