JERUSALEM (Aug. 28)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Premier-designate Shimon Peres have decided to hold “several more” private meetings in the quest for a unity government, the next of them tomorrow night.
The two men announced their intention to extend their dialogue into several more sessions after their meeting last night at the King David Hotel. They described their more than two-hour meeting as positive but both noted that while policy matters were nearing resolution, issues of the “composition and structure” of a unity government still presented, in Peres’ words, “a long line of problems to be overcome.”
Regarding the policy issues, Peres spoke of “agreements,” and Shamir of “progress,” on foreign, economic and defense affairs. The two leaders agreed on a “legal subcommittee” comprising Moshe Nissim (Likud, Minister of Justice) and Moshe Shahal (Labor MK and a leading attorney) to formulate the evolving agreements on these issues.
Neither Shamir nor Peres would give details, but other sources spoke of agreed formulas on the question of peace talks with Jordan and approaching accord on the issue of how decisions on West Bank settlement would be taken in a unity cabinet.
POSSIBLE COMPOSTION OF A UNITY CABINET
The two leaders were even more parsimonious with the details of their discussions on the “personal-political” problems surrounding the composition of a unity Cabinet.
Shamir would say nothing at all. Peres would say only that the principle of equality which he had earlier enunciated determined that neither of the two main parties find itself in a minority in the unity Cabinet.
In political circles it is assumed that the two men have agreed to a Cabinet of 24 ministers — 12 from each side, with each side entitled to replace its own people with people from its allied factions.
On the premiership, Likud’s formal position is still to demand rotation, but privately Likud leaders have indicated they would drop that if their party could have both the foreign and defense portfolios instead.
Labor, however, is insistent on keeping defense (Yitzhak Rabin is its candidate for the post) and is offering foreign and finance instead.
But Likud, like Labor, is not especially anxious to have the finance portfolio — in view of the drastic austerity measures that will be required of the next Finance Minister, whoever he may be.
WAITING FOR AGUDO
Meanwhile, Labor negotiators have clearly not given up hope of forming a narrow government after all — and are pointing hopefully to some signs of movement within the pivotal two-man Agudat Israel faction. Aguda MK Avraham Shapiro met with Peres last night and today was deliberately vague and equivocal when confronted by reporters.
Shapiro said that while, from the economic standpoint, a unity government might be “the best thing for the country,” from the religious viewpoint he was not at all sure it would be the best thing.
If Aguda did not feel that it could be as influential in a unity government as it had been in the Likud’s previous administrations, it would prefer, Shapiro said, to support a narrow government “under whoever can set one up.” This seemed to be a hint towards Labor — since Likud cannot, given the present arithmetic, set up a narrow government.