Shamir May Present Government Without a Clear-cut Majority

Yitzhak Shamir is planning to present a government to the Knesset next week that would have the backing of a 59-vote plurality of the legislature, as well as the tacit support of the Agudat Yisrael and Moledet parties, which would abstain from the vote of confidence.

That was the word circulating in Likud political circles Tuesday, as the country prepared to celebrate the Shavuot festival.

Independent observers, however, said the option of forming a unity coalition could not yet be ruled out and that Shamir, with more than a week left before his mandate expires, may yet attempt to reconstitute the partnership with Labor.

Shamir made it clear earlier in the week that he was not prepared to hand Rehavam Ze’evi, leader of the Moledet party, the Police Ministry, even if it meant the far-right party would fail to support a Likud-led government.

Likud apparently believes it can dispense with Moledet’s two votes because it is counting on the tacit support of Agudah. Likud anticipates Moledet will abstain too, rather than join Labor and the parties of the left in voting against Shamir’s government.

Ze’evi, for his part, has reiterated that he will not join the government if its platform contains any reference to the Camp David accords, the foundation of Shamir’s peace initiative.

In recent days, Likud has made strenuous efforts to woo Agudah.

Shamir met with Agudah’s Menachem Porush last weekend for what was billed a “reconciliation” meeting. It has been Porush more than any of the other Agudah leaders who has campaigned against entering a Likud-led coalition, because he says Shamir betrayed pledges to Agudah made during the November 1988 coalition negotiations.

UNITY OPTION STILL LIVE

Likud members of the Knesset voted last week in favor of a new law banning the rearing of pigs in Jewish areas of the country. A number of Labor Knesset members voted against the measure, thereby incurring Agudah’s ire.

Similarly, a number of Likud lawmakers on Monday backed a bill that would reduce the list of hospitals empowered to carry out legal abortions. Several though not all Laborites opposed the measure.

But while Agudah has drawn somewhat closer to Likud, its Knesset members assured Labor leaders Sunday that the party had not “crossed the lines” and was still part of the Labor camp.

Shamir hopes that Agudah will eventually join a Likud-led government once it wins a vote of confidence from the Knesset. Anticipating this, he is expected to leave the labor and social affairs portfolio vacant, as well as the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee.

But a high-level source within Likud maintained this week that the prime minister was still deeply reluctant to form a government that could only muster a plurality or thin majority of Knesset votes. His preference, the source said, is still a unity coalition.

“But the difficulties are still there,” the source said sadly, apparently referring to the major policy differences over the peace process that divide the two parties.

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