JERUSALEM (Aug. 1)
Under a thick veil of secrecy, leaders of Likud and the Labor Alignment met today for four hours to discuss the possibility of establishing a national unity government, with no substantive results.
Leaders of both parties agreed to meet again tomorrow to focus on social and economic issues. Even as the Likud and Alignment leaders met at the King David Hotel, they also continued their consultation with the smaller parties in an effort by each of the two major parties to convince President Chaim Herzog that it had the required majority to form a government.
A joint communique issued by Likud and the Alignment at the end of their meeting merely mentioned that they agreed in principle that there was a need for a national unity government. The discussion was described as “a meeting for clarifications.” There was no mention of the contents of the talks or whether there was any progress toward the formation of a new coalition. Yesterday, both Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Labor Party leader Shimon Peres both said, in separate interviews with the media, that a unity government is a “national need.”
The Likud-Alignment summit today followed the initiative by Herzog who yesterday called the leaders of the two parties into his office and asked them to form a unity government.
HERZOG BEGINS FORMAL DISCUSSIONS
Before Shamir and Peres began their discussions this afternoon, Herzog started his formal consultations with the two parties, following the official publication of last week’s election results. First to meet with the President was a Labor Party delegation led by secretary-general Haim Barlev. The Laborites asked Herzog to choose Peres to form the next government, since the Alignment, with 44 Knesset seats, will be the largest party in the parliament.
Following came the Likud delegation headed by MK Ronni Milo. They asked Herzog to delay asking anyone to form a government until the Likud-Alignment negotiations are completed.
Herzog also met with representatives of the National Religious Party, the Communist Party and Aguda Israel. He issued a statement that he would not meet with Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the Kach Party with one seat in the Knesset in last week’s elections, until he retracted his racist statements about Israeli Arabs and derogatory remarks about the President.
Kahane, who warned that he would break into the President’s residence if Herzog did not meet with him, protested peacefully outside the President’s residence this morning and then left.