JERUSALEM (Jul. 21)
The ultra-nationalist Tehiya Party is expected to join Premier Menachem Begin’s coalition government soon. But difficulties have arisen over its demand for a large new budget to increase and expand Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
Finance Minister Yoram Aridor and Deputy Premier and Housing Minister David Levy say the money simply is not there. Other ministers from Likud’s Liberal Party wing oppose the inclusion of Tehiya in the government on principle. The faction’s leaders opposed the Camp David accords and the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, sponsored no confidence motions against the government and encourage die-hards to try to prevent the return of Sinai to Egypt last April.
Nevertheless, Tehiya is ideologically close to Begin’s Herut party. Its three Knesset mandates would give the government a comfortable 64-seat margin. When negotiations with Tehiya began last week, Begin made it a point to be present.
Tehiya, which strongly supports the war in Lebanon, is believed anxious to join the government in time to participate in the “fateful decisions” over the current stalemate in west Beirut and in negotiations involving the future of Lebanon. But it demands an accelerated settlement policy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and, beyond that, the prompt imposition of Israeli law to those territories, an act that would be tantamount to annexation. It also demands a Cabinet portfolio for party leader Yuval Neeman, a Tel Aviv University physics professor who is an outspoken advocate of a “Greater Israel.”
The faction apparently has dropped its demands that Israel unilaterally abrogate the Camp David accords. Neeman, however, has called for the establishment of “security boundaries” for Israel deep inside Lebanon, at least as far north of the Litani River or possibly the Zaharani River, even further north. Those proposals are not supported by the faction as a whole.
CONDITIONS SOUGHT FOR TEHIYA’S ADMISSION
It is not known how far Begin is willing to go to embrace Tehiya and thereby improve his precarious position in the Knesset. Opposition to Tehiya within the Cabinet seems to be mainly on financial grounds.
Aridor noted that there is no money in the Treasury for additional settlements in the territories. He said that to meet Tehiya’s demands, each ministry would have to allocate two percent of its own budget, something none of the ministers is likely to agree to.
Some Likud-Liberal MKs want to make the admission of Tehiya to the coalition conditional on the appointment of one of their own men, Minister Without-Portfolio Yitchak Modai, to the post of Minister of Information. There is no Information Ministry in the government and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, like his predecessors, has fought hard against the creation of one. The Foreign Ministry is presently responsible for the dissemination of information abroad.
But there is a growing feeling in Israel that the country urgently needs more effective overseas information machinery in the wake of the Lebanese war which has tarnished Israel’s image abroad.