Labor Might Consider Forming Narrow-based Government if Unity Talks with Likud Remain Deadlocked

With Labor Party leader Shimon Peres’s 21-day period as Premier-designate now in its final week, party sources have let it be known that they might consider forming a narrow based coalition government if the unity talks with Likud remain deadlocked.

These sources spoke of a government embracing Labor (44 seats), Shinui (3), Citizens Rights Movement (3), Yahad (3), Courage to Cure the Economy (1), Tami (1) and perhaps Aguda Israel (2). In addition, such a government would benefit from the “passive support” of Hadash (4 seats) and the Progressive List for Peace (2).

Labor would form the government, according to these sources, in the anticipation that soon afterwards Aguda and the National Religious Party (4 seats) would join it, thereby giving such a government a solid majority of 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset, plus the passive support of six MKs representing Hadash and the Progressive List.

RATIONALE BEHIND LABOR’S MOVE

The rationale behind what appeared to be a deliberate leak from the Labor Party this weekend seemed to be two-fold: to bring psychological pressure to bear upon Likud in the unity talks; and to encourage Yahad leader Ezer Weizman and Courage to Cure the Economy leader Yigael Hurvitz to consider a Labor-led government, even though until now both have rejected such a scenario out of hand on the grounds that it requires Communist backing for such a government to survive.

Labor’s rationale in appealing to Weizman and Hurvitz is that the deteriorating state of the economy can no longer tolerate the ongoing delay in the creation of a government.

LIKUD’S TACTICS CITED

Likud, for its part, is energetically propagating media stories that it intends to press President Chaim Herzog not to give Peres a 21-day extension when his first period expires next Sunday on the grounds that his efforts seem unpromising. Instead, Likud will propose that Premier Yitzhak Shamir be given the mandate to form a government.

Likud sources making public this account of their party’s tactics say they are confident that Weizman, Hurvitz and the NRP leadership can be wooed into a narrow-based Likud government once Peres has “wasted three weeks” in fruitless efforts to form a Labor-led adminstration.

There have been no indications so far from Weizman that he is prepared to consider either Labor’s or Likud’s scenarios. Both Yahad and the NRP, in all their public statements, are standing firm in their demand for a unity government. Herzog, himself, said, when he named Peres as Premier-designate, that the nation desires a unity government.

Meanwhile, Labor and Likud negotiators were to meet in Jerusalem today for another session of the foreign policy working committee, following exchanges of angry recriminations last Thursday and Friday. The two substantive issues dividing the two parties continue to be the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and terms for peace talks with Jordan.

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