JERUSALEM (Mar. 29)
The Knesset headed for its Passover recess in the early hours of Friday morning, apparently ready to reconvene at short notice if Shimon Peres can put together a viable coalition government for its approval.
The Labor Party leader has 11 days left to accomplish the task, out of the 21-day mandate he received from President Chaim Herzog on March 20.
He has made little progress so far, but hope glimmered faintly when the recently formed Party for the Advancement of Zionist-Liberal Values announced this week that it was prepared to hold coalition talks with Labor.
A meeting between representatives of the two parties has been tentatively scheduled for this Sunday.
The Zionist-Liberals consist of five former members of Likud’s Liberal Party wing, who defected from Likud last month in protest against Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s peace diplomacy.
The new faction is headed by Yitzhak Mo-da’i, the former minister of economics and planning, who has been one of Shamir’s most severe critics.
Political insiders believe its willingness to meet with Labor is a tactical ploy to improve its bargaining position with Likud.
They say Peres’ chances of persuading the five breakaways to join a Labor-led government vary inversely with their ability to extract from Shamir the promise of safe seats on the Likud list in the next elections.
According to the Israeli media, Peres will offer to appoint Moda’i finance minister in his new government, an office Moda’i held when Peres last was prime minister in between 1984 and 1986.
But the Labor Party leader probably would find it impossible to guarantee safe scats for the five Likud defectors on Labor’s election list. The party’s constitution strictly forbids such arrangements.
Meanwhile, Peres was reported to be seeking legal assurances from Attorney General Yosef Harish that the Knesset can be called out of recess should he have a new government to present to it.