Jerusalem (Jul. 19)
Premier Menachem Begin opened coalition negotiations with National Religious Party leaders today, offering them four portfolios in a new Cabinet–education, interior, police and the religious affairs ministries. He also suggested that a coalition agreement with the NRP include a clause stating that the Prime Minister supported the “Who is a Jews?” amendment to the Law of Return and that efforts would be made to recruit a coalition majority in favor of it.
Only last week, Begin told reporters he would limit the NRP — with only six Knesset mandates — to two portfolios and that he could not make a commitment to force members of his coalition to support the controversial amendment. The amendment which would recognize only conversions performed by Orthodox rabbis “according to halacha” never reached a vote in the last Knesset because of strong opposition to it.
The NRP, apparently wary of a vote in the new Knesset, has suggested that instead of amending the law, jurisdiction over conversions performed abroad as well as in Israel be turned over exclusively to the rabbinical courts.
Meeting with members of the Herut Secretariate here over the weekend, Begin said he was seeking to form an 18-member coalition government which would include eight members of his own Herut party, six of Likud’s Liberal Party wing and two NRP ministers — each of whom would hold dual portfolios. He would offer one portfolio each to the Tami and La’am factions.