JERUSALEM (Sep. 21)
Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir received President Chaim Herzog’s mandate Wednesday to form a new government. In delegating the task to Shamir, Herzog spoke of the “longing” in the political community and among the broad public for a national unity coalition embracing Likud and the Labor Alignment. He also stressed that the transition period between the present care-taker regime and the next government be as short as possible.
Shamir was summoned to the Presidential mansion at mid-day and promptly accepted the responsibility delegated to him. He told reporters that his first move will be to call on Labor to join a national unity government. Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres has agreed to meet with Shamir. But political observers see very little chance that a national government will materialize.
DESIREABILITY OF A BROAD-BASED GOVERNMENT
According to Herzog, in his statement announcing his choice of Shamir, a majority of the Knesset factions with which he consulted during the past few days want a broad-based government and this desire reflects wide public sentiment. He said people believe that a unity government could best face up to the urgent economic situation and other severe problems that burden the country.
When Shamir was elected leader of Likud, a week after Menachem Begin first announced his intention to resign, he pledged to try his best to form a unity government. Labor’s position has been that such a government would have to be headed by a Labor Prime Minister, if only because the Labor Alignment is the largest single party in the Knesset. This is unacceptable to Likud.
It is not known what Cabinet portfolios Shamir is likely to offer Labor but political observers expect that Shamir and Peres will merely “go through the motions,” after which each will attempt to blame the other for failure to form a unity government.
In his statement Wednesday Herzog cited the prayer of the High Priest on Yom Kippur during the days of the Temple that “government shall not lapse in Judaea.” In modern terms, he said, this means there should not be a long period of uncertainty with a transition administration guiding the nation’s affairs.
He said he chose Shamir to form a government because it was clear from his consultations that Shamir enjoys the support of all of the present coalition parties. Together, they hold 64 Knesset mandates, a clear majority.
Likud sources said today that Shamir hoped to announce a new government within a fortnight. Under law, he has 21 days to complete the task and may ask for an extension if he fails. He has said he intends to reconstitute the present coalition and to adhere strictly to the policies of the previous Likud-led coalition with no changes of personnel for the time being.
Although Shamir won the backing of all the Likud coalition partners to support him as the next Prime Minister, a coalition agreement has yet to be signed and a period of hard bargaining lies ahead. Some of the smaller parties served notice Wednesday that they will press their demands which were not fully met in the preliminary negotiations.
With Shamir under pressure to establish his new government swiftly, Likud is considered likely to make further concessions to the small factions which hold the balance of power in parliament. The new coalition is expected to consist of Likud, the National Religious Party, the Aguda Israel party, Tami, Tehiya and independent MKs Mordechai Ben-Porat and Yigael Hurwitz.
During their 20-minute private discussion which preceded Wednesday’s announcement, Herzog and Shamir telephoned Menachem Begin to inform him of the President’s offer and Shamir’s acceptance. Shamir said later that he had asked forand received Begin’s promise to assist and advise him in the future. Begin, who heads the care-taker government, remains confined to his home with an undisclosed illness.