JERUSALEM (Nov. 20)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was distressed to learn that severe strains have developed between his Likud bloc and its ultra-Orthodox coalition partners since he left for the United States a week ago.
He told Israeli correspondents in Los Angeles he would act personally to ease the situation as soon as he returns to Israel.
Shamir is due home next weekend, after working visits to France and Italy.
Meanwhile, one of the prime minister’s close associates in Likud, Ronni Milo, expressed confidence Monday that the coalition will survive.
Milo, who is minister for environmental protection, said he is “optimistic” that the religious parties’ “crisis of confidence” in Likud would be resolved. He spoke to reporters at the dedication of a new national park near Jerusalem.
Milo is known to have spoken by telephone to Shamir in Los Angeles to apprise him of the seriousness of the crisis.
Milo was also in contact over the weekend with leaders of the ultra-Orthodox party Shas, which hinted it might follow Agudat Yisrael’s move in bolting the coalition.
The Orthodox parties are furious that the Knesset, with Likud support, overwhelmingly backed a human rights bill on Nov. 15 that the religious establishment considers a menace to its religious and social control in Israel.
The bill, which sailed through its first reading by a vote of 53-19, would require all legislation to accord with accepted democratic norms, and it provides for the creation of a constitutional court to serve as watchdog.
The Orthodox fear that provision most, since religiously oriented laws might be overturned by the court.
Milo and other Likud leaders are trying to assure the religious parties that Likud will either render the legislation toothless by amendments or keep it bottled up indefinitely in committee.