Peres Claims He’s Formed Government, but Won’t Reveal Source of Support

An aura of mystery and tension hung over the Labor Party’s announcement Wednesday evening that it had succeeded in forming a new coalition government.

Labor Party leader Shimon Peres formally notified President Chaim Herzog and asked Knesset Speaker Dov Shilansky to call the 120-mem-ber legislative body out of recess this Sunday for a vote of confidence.

Peres’ formal notification was delivered to Herzog at 6:30 p.m. local time by Dahlia Goren, secretary of Labor’s Knesset faction. A copy went to Shilansky, who said he would consult with Attorney General Yosef Harish about convening the Knesset and would make a decision Thursday.

But apart from those brief announcements, no hint was given of where Labor found the votes needed to break the 60-60 Knesset deadlock that has prevailed since the Likud-Labor unity government collapsed under Labor’s no-confidence motion March 15.

Peres and his colleagues were especially tight-lipped. Observers had the impression that the situation is volatile and nothing definite can be known before the Knesset convenes.

Pundits, meanwhile, focused on five former members of Likud’s Liberal Party wing who defected last month to form a separate Knesset faction.

Their leader, Yitzhak Moda’i, and his colleague, Avraham Sharir, were reported to have cast their lot with Labor. The three others reportedly decided to return to the Likud fold.

Moda’i has been engaged in intensive negotiations in recent days with Peres and separately with Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir.

NUMBER OF DEFECTORS UNCLEAR

Political observers do not rule out the possibility that other Knesset members associated with the Likud-led bloc may have secretly switched their support to a Labor-led government.

“I have said there is a majority; more than that I will not say,” Peres told reporters in Tel Aviv. He said negotiations were continuing and that he hoped “to broaden the base of support.”

He refused to say which Knesset member joined the 60 already committed to Labor. “How do you know that it is an individual?” Peres asked.

Haim Ramon, chairman of the Labor Party’s Knesset faction, was equally non-committal. He predicted that a majority of the Knesset would vote confidence in the new government and hoped it would be “larger than we now assess,” but he would not elaborate.

Ramon spoke of “an atmosphere of pressure and threats” surrounding possible wavering Knesset members and implied that was the reason for caution.

Some newspapers reported Wednesday that Sharir, one of the Likud members said to have transferred his allegiance to Labor, would be escorted to the Knesset for the confidence vote by police guard.

According to speculation, Sharir was offered the Transport Ministry by Peres and Moda’i was promised the Finance Ministry, a portfolio he held when Peres was prime minister in the Labor-Likud coalition government of 1984.

But if Peres indeed secured his majority by enticing Likud defectors, he may well lose the support of one of the small leftist factions traditionally aligned to Labor.

Amnon Rubinstein of the Center-Shinui Movement declared Wednesday night that Peres “can definitely not count on our two votes for a government based on a deserter.”

Rubinstein and a growing body of political and public opinion seem now to favor the creation of a temporary Labor-Likud unity regime for the single purpose of enacting drastic electoral reforms and calling new elections.

Peres received his mandate from Herzog to try to form a new government on March 20. The 21-day period allowed to accomplish the task expires on April 11.

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