Unity Coalition on the Brink of Collapse; Cabinet Huddles for Evening Session to Decide Its Fate
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Unity Coalition on the Brink of Collapse; Cabinet Huddles for Evening Session to Decide Its Fate

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The 19-month-old Labor-Likud unity coalition government was poised on the brink of collapse Sunday as its ministers prepared for an evening Cabinet session that could decide its fate.

The coalition crisis, which had seemed on the way to resolution, flared anew over the weekend when Premier Shimon Peres expressed dissatisfaction with a coalition-saving formula on which he and the Likud leadership had seemed earlier to agree. It called for Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai, whom Peres was determined to dismiss, to exchange portfolios with Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

While Peres appeared satisfied to have Modai out of the Treasury, he balked at the Likud plan which would return him to the Treasury post when Shamir becomes Prime Minister following the rotation of power next October. Peres insists that Modai stay out for the full tenure of the coalition government which ends in 1989.


Shamir made it clear over the weekend that Likud would not accept a Labor veto of the allocation of portfolios after he becomes Premier. He also said he would reject a letter of dismissal to Modai from Peres.

The deadline for resolving the crisis is Sunday night or, at latest Monday morning. If Peres fires Modai and the Likud ministers make good their threat to walk out, their resignations would become effective in 48 hours. Likud could then be expected to vote in favor of a non-confidence motion by the opposition Tehiya Party when it comes before the Knesset Wednesday. The motion has no connection to the Cabinet crisis.

The government would fall though it would remain in office as a caretaker regime until new elections. In a care-taker government, all Cabinet portfolios are frozen. This means Modai would stay on as Finance Minister until a newly elected government is installed.

The crisis has been simmering since last Tuesday night when Peres announced at the opening of the Labor Party convention, that he intended to dismiss Modai for remarks published in newspaper interviews last weekend which Peres considered deliberate attacks by Modai on government policy.

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