Likud, Labor Form Alliance After Municipal Elections in Tel Aviv

The new Likud-Labor alliance formed after last Tuesday’s municipal elections in Tel Aviv agreed early today to admit three religious bloc members to the coalition which will govern Israel’s largest and overwhelmingly secular city.

The announcement came after a prolonged debate which reflected intense pressure applied by the Likudled government in Jerusalem. Premier Yitzhak Shamir reportedly insisted that the religious elements be included and Finance Minister Yigal Cohen-Orgad was said to have threatened to freeze funds earmarked for the municipality unless this was done.

The elections were an easy victory for popular Likud Mayor Shlomo Lehat over his Labor Alignment challenger Dov Ben-Meir. But Lehat’s party won only 14 seats in the 31-member City Council to 10 for Labor.

The two parties agreed to join forces and could have governed without the smaller factions. The Religious Front, a joint list of the National Religious Party and Aguda Israel, dominated by the latter, won only three seats.

The leftist Shinui faction garnered two seats and one each went to the Independent Liberal Party and peace advocate Abie Nathan’s Apan (Seamens) faction, all secular in outlook. The religious parties were clearly the minority but national coalition politics prevailed.

The Religious Front immediately issued demands to preserve the sanctity of the Sabbath, prevent the distribution of pork in the city and ban “obscene advertising posters.” They offered no definition of obscene.

Menachem Porush, of the Aguda Israel, hailed the agreement as a victory for his party and accused the non-religious of trying to impose their way of life on the observant minority. Mordechai Virshuvsky of Shinui said that it will now be up to the small minority parties to maintain the rights of the overwhelmingly non-Orthodox populace as it appears that the religious will have their way. The Mapam wing of the Labor Alignment threatened to pull out of the coalition in protest against what it called “religious blackmail.”

But Labor runner-up Ben-Meir, now first deputy mayor, said the agreement did nothing more than preserve the status quo between religious and non-religious elements. If so, the score or so movie houses and other places of entertainment which have slowly, almost clandestinely opened on Friday nights, will remain open and a limited charter bus service, a subsidiary of the Dan bus cooperative, will provide transportation to the beaches on the Sabbath.

This may not be the case, however. Lehat has already agreed to close down two movie houses on Friday night as a gesture to the Orthodox.

NEXT STORY