Group Calls for National Unity Government to Meet Economic Crisis

The rapidly deteriorating economic situation has triggered new calls for a national unity government. A group of coalition Knesset members led by former Finance Minister Yigael Hurwitz maintained that this was the “only way to save the economy.” But there has been no response from the Labor Alignment.

Hurwitz argued that no government based on a narrow coalition majority, be it Likud or Labor-led, would be able to carry out unpopular economic measures necessary to correct the situation. Israel’s inflation is running at an annual rate of 150 percent, its exports are declining, its balance of trade deficit is growing and its foreign currency reserves are dwindling.

The Hurwitz group reportedly held behind-the-scenes consultations with Labor leaders but got no green light from the opposition. Hurwitz made it clear that he would approach Premier Menachem Begin with proposals for a national unity government only if the Labor Alignment was clearly ready for such an initiative.

Hurwitz has the support of Minister-Without-Port-folio Mordechai Ben-Porat of the Telem faction, Avraham Melamed, a National Religious Party MK and MKs Yitzhak Berman and Dror Seigerman, members of Likud’s Liberal Party wing. The former Finance Minister who has been at odds with his successor, Yoram Aridor, said the national unity idea did not pose a threat to Begin’s coalition. But Berman, a former Energy Minister in Begin’s Cabinet, said if the initiative fails he would feel free to vote as he pleases in the Knesset. Berman speaks for at least two other Likud MKs.

Another coalition partner, Science Minister Yuval Neeman of the ultra-nationalist Tehiya faction, said he had no objections to a national unity government provided that the Labor Alignment agrees to support Likud’s massive settlement program on the West Bank.

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