Efforts Underway to Revive Labor-likud Unity Government Talks

Serious efforts got underway last night to revive the dialogue between Labor and Likud for a unity government after Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Premier-designate Shimon Peres ended their fifth negotiating session in deadlock.

Political sources predicted today that the unity talks would resume shortly. Labor and Likud MKs met informally at the Knesset yesterday to trade ideas on how to resolve the outstanding issues between their parties. These include the question of new settlements on the West Bank and the rotation of national leadership over the four year tenure of a unity government.

Labor, which won three more Knesset mandates than Likud in the July 23 elections insists that Peres hold the Premiership for the first 25 months. Likud wants the office to change hands annually.

NRP PRESENTS COMPROMISE IDEAS

The National Religious Party, one of the strongest advocates of a unity regime, presented its own ideas for compromise at separate meetings yesterday with Peres and Shamir. NRP leader Yosef Burg suggested that if Peres is to be Premier first and if Laborite Yitzhak Rabin is to hold the defense portfolio for the full four years, Likud should hold the Foreign Ministry as well as the Finance Ministry for four years.

According to the agreement in principle said to have been reached between Peres and Shamir last week, the Foreign Ministry would be rotated with the Premiership.

Shamir has called a meeting of the entire Likud Knesset faction this evening, raising speculation that he was seeking a broad consensus within his party to strengthen his bargaining position in further negotiations.

Until now the Likud leadership has been sharply divided over the terms of a unity government. Hardliners, led by Deputy Premier David Levy, have demanded that Shamir take a tougher stance.

ELECTORATE REMAINS SHARPLY DIVIDED

There has been talk in recent days of new elections in the event that Labor and Likud fail to reach agreement on a unity government and fail separately to form narrowly based coalitions. A public opinion poll conducted by the Modi’in Ezrachi organization, published today in Maariv, indicated that the electorate remains sharply divided.

According to the poll results, Shamir is favored as Prime Minister over Peres by a narrow 29.3-27 percent majority. Laborite Yitzhak Navon was favored by 10.4 percent of the respondents.

Incumbent Moshe Arens headed the list for Defense Minister with 23.5 percent, followed by Labor’s candidate for the post, Yitzhak Rabin with 21.9 percent and former Likud Defense Minister Ariel Sharon with 17.8 percent.

Former Likud Finance Minister Yigael Hurvitz, who is now a one-man Knesset faction, was favored by 32 percent of the respondents to head the Treasury. Hurvitz preaches economic austerity and a reduced living standard because “there is no money.” He calls his faction Courage to Cure the Economy (OMETZ).

He was followed in the poll by Laborite Gad Yacobi with 15.1 percent and incumbent Finance Minister Yigal Cohen-Orgad with 15 percent.

Former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, a Labor MK, was favored by 23.7 percent of the respondents to be the next Foreign Minister. Runners-up were Navon, with 17.6 percent and former Defense Minister Ezer Weizman who has joined his Yahad party with Labor polling 7.5 percent.

NEXT STORY