JERUSALEM (Jun. 3)
A group of Likud ministers, goaded by the outspoken Ariel Sharon, are pressing Prime Minister-designate Yitzhak Shamir to set up a narrow-based Likudled government before his presidential mandate expires at midnight Thursday.
Their urgency is not only attributable to the fast-approaching deadline.
There was a flurry of media speculation over the weekend that Likud and the Labor Party are engaged in contacts with a view to establishing a “national emergency government” to preside for a limited period, presumably until laws are passed changing the electoral system and new elections are called.
David Magen, a Likud member of the care-taker Cabinet, told reporters after a meeting of Likud ministers Sunday evening that Shamir now has 61 “firm” supporters in the Knesset, the minimum he needs to set up a coalition regime.
He has only to formally advise President Chaim Herzog of this by midnight Thursday and can present his new government to the Knesset for approval sometime next week.
But another Likud minister, Ehud Olmert, was more guarded in his assessment of the situation. While he agreed that a narrow Likud government was attainable, “I don’t think it will be as easy as some of my colleagues seem to think,” Olmert said.
The one-vote margin claimed by Magen would depend on an Agudat Yisrael party break-away Knesset member, Eliezer Mizrachi. The remaining five Agudah seats are technically bound to support a Labor-led coalition.
Magen said he hoped and assumed the Agudah would not vote against a proposed Likud government and would join it at a later stage.