JERUSALEM (Apr. 5)
The paperthin parliamentary majority that Labor Party leader Shimon Peres claimed to have mustered Wednesday appeared to be disintegrating Thursday.
But the prime minister-designate stood firm on his request to call the Knesset out of recess for a vote of confidence in a new Labor-led government.
Rumors abounded Thursday night that Avraham Sharir, a Likud defector said to have cast his lot with Peres, has had second thoughts. Labor also stood to lose the support of left-wing factions being courted by Likud.
Knesset Speaker Dov Shilansky of Likud postponed a decision Thursday on Peres’ request to convene the Knesset this Sunday. Shilansky, who sought a legal opinion from Attorney General Yosef Harish, insisted he needed to consult as well with Yitzhak Shamir of Likud, the caretaker prime minister.
Although the Likud leader probably will raise no objections, a party spokesman said, there is no guarantee the Knesset will meet Sunday.
Most observers agree the longer the delay, the poorer are Peres’ chances to put together a government before his mandate expires on Wednesday.
The Knesset has been split 60-60 between the two major parties and their respective sup- porters. The vote of Sharir or any member pried loose from the Likud bloc would tip the balance in favor of Labor.
But Likud is making strenuous efforts to win back the five breakaway members, including Sharir, who formed a separate Knesset faction last month.
Sharir’s continued silence as to his intentions is ominous for Labor, especially since he has an appointment with Shamir scheduled for Friday.
Labor has not received assurances of support from Shinui, Mapam and the Citizens Rights Movement, left-wing and centrist factions it has long taken for granted. They object to serving in a government that depends on Likud renegades for its majority.
Shinui, in the forefront of mounting clamor for electoral reform, says it would prefer a Labor-Likud interim government to enact legislation within three months for the direct election of the prime minister and at least half the Knesset’s members.
Likud reportedly has agreed to the idea, in order to convince Shinui to withhold support for a Labor-led government.
Peres, who addressed the Shinui leadership Thursday, said Likud wasn’t sincere about electoral reform. “All they are trying to do is hold up the peace process,” he said.