JERUSALEM (Aug. 2)
Yahad leader Ezer Weizman recommended to President Chaim Herzog today that he invest Labor Party leader Shimon Peres with the task of forming a government.
Weizman, whose party won three Knesset seats in last week’s elections, said the urgent need was for a unity government and Peres, as the leader of the largest Knesset faction with 44 seats, compared to Likud’s 41, ought to be given the first chance of setting it up. Weizman reportedly told Herzog that if Peres failed, then Premier Yitzhak Shamir should be given the opportunity to try his hand.
As Weizman, and representatives of other minor parties, consulted in turn with the President, the two big parties prepared for their second round of unity talks in Jerusalem late in the day.
The view in political circles was that with Weizman standing firm in his preference for Peres, the chances were enhanced that Herzog would indeed call on Peres to form a government — attaching his earnest and morally weighty recommendation that it be a broad unity government.
Labor’s ally Shinui, whose leaders also saw Herzog this morning, made it clear to the President that they would balk at a unity government under the Likud, but supported one under Labor. Shinui won three seats in the new Knesset.
LIKUD’S TACTIC AT THIS STAGE
Likud’s tactic at this stage — as it was evinced when a Likud delegation called on Herzog for consultations yesterday — is to urge the President to delay his decision on a nomination for Premier-designate, in order to give the unity talks the chance to proceed untrammelled by the Presidential determination.
Some observers believe that in part, at least, Likud is motivated by the hope that splits will emerge within the Labor Alignment, and between Labor and its allies, over the unity scenario — and then Likud will be able to argue to Herzog that it (Likud) and not Labor is the largest faction desiring a unity government.
Labor’s tactic is the mirrow image; it wants Herzog to make the choice soon — on the confident assumption that the President’s choice will fall on Peres. Labor points out that Peres leads the largest faction, and that Shamir cannot at this time (as he could 10 months ago) produce a list of 61 Knesset members supporting a government under his Premiership.
A SPADOLINI SOLUTION SCENARIO
While Peres’ prospects seemed to be steadily improving — whether as Premier of a unity government or of a smaller government — some political observers here are carefully bearing in mind another scenario: a Spadolini solution.
Giovanni Spadolini was recently Premier of Italy at the head of a small party, and indeed now, too, the Italian government is headed by Benito Craxi with only 12 percent of the voters supporting his Socialist Party.
Two cadidates come to mind in this context: Weizman and the veteran National Religious Party leader Yosef Burg.
Perhaps it was significant, therefore, that Weizman reportedly expected to be asked, on a TV interview last night, whether he would accept a Presidential nomination in case of Labor-Likud deadlock. In the event, he was not asked. But he duly took care that his answer was leaked to Yediot Aharonot this morning. He said he would have answered, “I would accept the task.”
Burg, a foxy veteran of many a coalition negotiation, would surely like nothing better than to end his political career (he is 74 years old) as Premier of a unity government, political analysts noted.
Perhaps that is why his party is studiously avoiding committing itself to supporting either of the big blocs. At its meeting with Herzog last night, the NRP said it would “only be prepared to participate in a unity government.” And after all, without the NRP both Labor and Likud would find it extremely hard to set up any narrow-based government at all.