JERUSALEM (Aug. 13)
The machinery of the Labor-Likud coalition government was creaking again this week after angry comments by spokesmen for both wings of the coalition. The renewed tension stemmed from statements by Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai of Likud, and a response by Uzi Baram, secretary general of the Labor Party.
Last weekend Modai reportedly asserted that the coalition government would not complete its scheduled term. He reportedly also said that the Labor Party did not intend to honor the agreement to hand the premiership over to the Likud in mid-term.
Baram, in response, surprised Israelis by a confirmation of Modai’s prediction. Baram said the current nature of relations between Labor and Likud could lead to a situation in which the Labor Party would not fulfill the coalition agreement.
“A few months ago, when I was asked, I said we would definitely honor the coalition agreement,” Baram declared. “This was at a time when the government functioned normally. But now, when there is total political paralysis, when we cannot wait for a whole year without progress in the political sphere, the entire issue is doubtful.”
He added: “Therefore, we shall have to decide whether we go ahead with the coalition agreement.” Baram refused to comment on whether the Labor Party intended — should the agreement with Likud come apart — to call for early elections or to try to form a narrow-based coalition.
Absorption Minister Yaacov Tsur (Labor) also repeated Sunday his doubts about the durability of the coalition. He said there was considerable justification for early elections, rather than handing over the leadership to Likud. In an interview on the Voice of Israel Radio, Tsur said there was a lessening of the number of issues on which the coalition partners agreed, and no foundation for any political cooperation.
Likud MK Sarah Doron rejected the idea of any change in the agreement, asserting that early elections would jeopardize Israel’s economic austerity plan and throw the economy into turmoil.