Labor Sets Conditions for Joining National Unity Coalition with Likud

Labor and Likud coalition talks are on again, aimed at establishing a broad-based government.

They resumed Sunday morning with a brief get-together between Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the Likud leader, and Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, who is foreign minister in the outgoing Cabinet.

Also present were Shamir’s closest associate, Moshe Arens and Labor’s No 2 man, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Their discussion was described as general More substantive talks were scheduled for later in the day. Two separate working teams of both parties were to convene.

One was to discuss policy guidelines of a new Labor-Likud coalition. The other was to examine the division of Cabinet portfolios between the two big parties and the smaller ones likely to be their coalition partners.

Though both parties are trying to form a unity government for the good of country, there is no assurance of success at this point, Labor has laid down three conditions:

It insists that the three far right-wing parties — Tehiya, Tsomet and Moledet — be excluded from the new government.

It demands the right of its Knesset members to vote their conscience, free of coalition discipline, if the divisive “Who Is a Jew” amendment reaches the Knesset floor.

Finally, Labor opposes elements in the agreements Likud has already signed with the ultra-Orthodox parties.

The problem on the far right stems from Tehiya, since the two smaller rightist parties are expected to bow out of the coalition voluntarily.

But Likud signed an agreement with Tehiya last Thursday pledging to establish 40 new Jewish settlements in the administered territories over the next four years.

Tehiya leader Yuval Ne’eman said if Labor balked, “that is Labor’s problem.” He seemed to imply that Tehiya would remain in a broad coalition and hold Likud to its promise.

Labor had hoped Tehiya would withdraw rather than sit in a government with Labor, which opposes commitments to massive settlement programs in the administered territories.

The religious parties, it is believed, understand that their agreements with Likud would have to be revised and scaled down, if there is a coalition with Labor.

The Agudat Yisrael party nevertheless insists that Likud honor its promise to push the “Who Is a Jew” amendment through the Knesset.

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