JERUSALEM (Aug. 26)
President Chaim Herzog today granted Labor Party leader Shimon Peres an additional 21 days to form a government, but there are grave doubts in the political community as to whether he will succeed in doing so.
Observers point out that Yahad Party leader Ezer Weizman’s agreement last week to form a parliamentary bloc with Labor has not resulted in the hoped-for dominc process among other small parties. The National Religious Party, with four Knesset seats, and Agudat Israel, with two seats, are stubbornly sitting on the fence. At the same time, Ahar on Abu Hatzeira, leader of Tami (one seat), also refuses to join with Labor.
Without Tami, Labor has lined up 60 seats, enough to prevent Likud from forming a government. With Tami, Labor would have — at least on paper, with Hadash and the Progressive List for Peace providing passive support — 61 seats, enough to form a government.
UNITY TALKS REMAIN BOGGED DOWN
Meanwhile, unity talks between Labor and Likud are still bogged down over the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and that of the Premiership. Peres and Premier Yitzhak Shamir are to meet tomorrow for a third time since Peres was given his original mandate by Herzog three weeks ago.
Likud ministers urged Shamir today to hold firm in the demand for “rotation” of the Premiership, and Labor negotiators urged Peres to hold firm in rejecting this idea. Labor, following Weizman’s swing over — as well as Yigael Hurvitz leader of the one-seat Courage To Cure the Economy — is in no mood to entertain the idea of rotation, as they may have been prepared to do a week ago.
But on the Likud side, the argument is that Weizman’s move has not tipped the scales fully in Labor’s favor. Therefore, Likud leaders say, rotation is still a viable option. Significantly, though, well placed Likud sources were not prepared to predict tonight that Shamir himself would endorse this view at his talks with Peres tomorrow. Some indicated that Shamir might be likely to agree to a unity government under Peres so long as Likud and Labor have an equal number of ministers and Likud holds the defense portfolio.