JERUSALEM (Aug. 9)
Labor Alignment and Likud teams, under the two sides’ respective leaders, held three hours of talks here today in the King David Hotel and resolved to meet again — for a fourth time — on Sunday. Both sides at the meeting emerged praising the cordial atmosphere and there was the beginning of talk of a “momentum” possibly building up.
Nevertheless, on substantive issues the two sides could not point to any real progress. Today’s session was devoted to defense and foreign policy: each side presented its platforms in a series of addresses by members of the teams, but no attempt was made, yet, to devise formulas to bridge the gaps.
There was also no attempt to deal with the issue of who would head a unity government. Deputy Premier David Levy of Likud made it clear once again, after the meeting, that Likud regards this as a key issue for negotiations, while Yitzhak Navon of the Labor Party reiterated his party’s contention that President Chaim Herzog’s decision to give Labor leader Shimon Peres the mandate to form the government effectively closed the matter.
The issues and arguments that surfaced today were the predictable ones: Jewish settlements in the West Bank, terms for talking with Jordan, and getting Israeli troops out of Lebanon. Labor sources said there were “no surprises at all.”
HARD LINE TAKEN BY THE NRP
Nevertheless, Labor was surprised later in the day by the no-compromise position on policy issues, and far-reaching demands on personal issues, presented by the National Religious Party at its second formal coalition discussion with Peres.
As a result of that meeting, the optimism in Labor over prospects of forming a narrow-based government has waned for the present and the optimism in Likud that Peres will eventually fail to form any government has correspondingly waxed.
In political circles the talk is now of an “economic emergency government, ” set up intially for 18 months and mandated to deal primarily, and almost exclusively, with the economic crisis. After the 18-month period the government would resign, and the field would be open again — either for renewed coalition talks or for new elections.