Last Minute Hitches May Delay Forming New Coalition Government

Last minute hitches tonight threatened to prevent Premier Menachem Begin from presenting his new Cabinet to the Knesset tomorrow, after all. The main problem was said to center on David Levy of the Herut wing of Likud, the present Minister of Housing and of Immigrant Absorption, who is refusing to cede his absorption portfolio to Tami’s leader, Aharon Abu Hatzeira.

Begin was reportedly pressing Levy to agree to this as a way of “compensating” Abu Hatzeira for his agreement to relinquish the Religious Ministry post to Yosef Burg, the National Religious Party leader. The Likud ministers convened late tonight to try and iron out the issue.

Meanwhile, Aguda Israel’s Council of Sages endorsed the coalition accord, as predicted. Aguda leaders told reporters after their meeting tonight that Begin had undertaken that the Law of Return would be amended “within a reasonable period.” They refused to specify the period. But Aguda’s Knesset leaders Avraham Shapiro, said it was “less than two years.”

Sections of the 94-paragraph coalition agreement that were leaked out tonight highlighted Aguda’s major gains in terms of cash support for its institutions and also in terms of religious legislation. On the former, the agreement stipulates that the government will “cover the deficits” of the “large” yeshivot. Annual government stipends for yeshiva students have also been markedly increased. Religious legislation includes a pledge to stop all El Al flights on Sabbaths and holidays and to close the country’s three ports — Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat — on these days.

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