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Peres Concedes He Can’t Form Coalition; Rabin Calls for New Unity Government

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The Labor Party’s No. 2 leader, Yitzhak Rabin, sounded a strong call Thursday for a new national unity government, in an outspoken address to his party’s Leadership Bureau meeting in Tel Aviv.

The former defense minister saw it as the only alternative to unfettered control of the government by a right-wing regime.

At the same time, he accused party leader Shimon Peres by implication of botching chances to set up a Labor-led government.

Peres was due to meet President Chaim Herzog at 10 p.m. local time Thursday to advise him officially that his 36 days of efforts to form a coalition government had failed.

The mandate is expected to be given to acting Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, leader of the Likud bloc, who has an appointment to meet Herzog at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Shamir, like Peres, will be given an initial 21 days to try to form a government.

His chances for success brightened when Likud defector Avraham Sharir, who had transferred his allegiance to Labor, announced late Thursday that he was re-joining the Likud bloc.

Sharir’s vote may be sufficient to break the present Knesset deadlock and provide a Likud-led coalition with a 61-59 majority.

Another defector, Yitzhak Moda’i, who had also flirted with Labor, announced Wednesday night that he was returning to Likud.

Moda’i’s announcement was a lethal blow to whatever slim chances Peres retained to form a government.

URGES UNITY GOVERNMENT

Rabin urged a unity government because a narrow Likud coalition incorporating the extremist right-wing parties would be a disaster for the country, he said.

He proposed, however, that the new unity government have a statutory life span of no more than six months, during which time it would enact electoral reforms providing for the direct election of the prime minister.

He said he would not hold it to any commitment to accept U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s formula for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

Shamir’s rejection of the Baker plan was partly responsible for the Labor-sponsored no-confidence vote that toppled the last unity government on March 15.

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Ronni Milo said Thursday that Shamir would not invite Labor to join his new government “for the same reasons that he rejected Peres’ invitation to join a unity government: differences in policy.”

Rabin’s speech seemed to be the opening gun in a long-expected campaign to displace Peres as party leader. Without mentioning Peres by name, he seemed to blame him for the “broch” (Yiddish for misfortune) that has befallen the party.

It appeared likely, meanwhile, that the only strictly Orthodox party in the Labor camp, the Agudat Yisrael, will abandon its agreement with Labor as soon as Peres hands in his mandate.

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