JERUSALEM (Aug. 8)
The talks between the Labor Alignment and Likud on forming a broad-based government was tinged with tension today as Likud leaders insisted that the issue of the Premiership should be subject to negotiations and that Likud, like the Labor Alignment, would continue parallel negotiations with other parties in an effort to form the basis for an alternative coalition should the current efforts by Labor Party leader Shimon Peres to form a government fail.
The position of the Labor Alignment is that the issue of the Premiership is not subject to negotiations since President Chaim Herzog gave Peres the mandate last Sunday to form the new government. At the time, Herzog said that the nation desires a national unity government and that “the country needs a quick decision.” Peres has 21 days, from last Sunday, to form a government. He can get a 21-day extension if he needs it.
The insistence by Likud today on the issue of the Premiership and parallel negotiations with smaller parties came after Likud leaders met in Jerusalem to map the next steps of their talks with the Alignment. Deputy Premier David Levy rejected charges that Likud was trying to foil an Alignmentled national unity government. Earlier this week, Likud said that if Peres should head the next government, it would seek the Defense and Foreign Ministry portfolio.
TALKS TO CONTINUE THURSDAY
Negotiations between the Alignment and Likud were scheduled to continue tomorrow morning. The focus will be on the sensitive issues of Lebanon and the settlements in the West Bank. Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Peres met Monday, but nothing substantive emerged from their talks. They agreed to meet again tomorrow for a private session.
Likud sources said today that the party’s tactics in its talks with the Alignment was to gain time. These sources, according to Radio Israel, said that Likud wanted to drag out the negotiations until the alloted time for Peres to form a government ran out.
SPECIAL INTEREST FOCUSED ON AGUDA
Meanwhile, special interest was focused today on Aguda Israel, which until now has opposed a national unity government and has supported a Likudled coalition. However, in the past 24 hours, Aguda sources were quoted as saying that once Herzog asked Peres to form the government “a new situation was created.”
Avraham Shapiro, an Aguda leader, said that his party, which has two seats in the Knesset, does not intend to take a position on a Peres-led government until it knows what Labor has to offer on religious issues. He added that any decision to join a Labor government would have to be approved first by the Council of Torah Sages.
Talks continued, meanwhile, in Tel Aviv between Labor Party and Mapam leaders. Mapam said yesterday that it is opposed to a national unity government but will not impede steps in that direction. Separate talks were also scheduled today between Labor leaders and the National Religious Party, Tami and Aguda Israel over what concessions Labor is ready to grant on religious issues.