With Government Collapse Imminent, Labor Seeks Deal on Early Elections

With the collapse of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s government imminent, the Labor Party is trying to negotiate with Likud on a date for new elections.

The Likud-led coalition lost its parliamentary majority Sunday when two far right ministers, Yuval Ne’eman of Tehiya and Rehavam Ze’evi of Moledet, submitted their resignations to the Cabinet, effective after 48 hours.

The two parties represent a combined total of five Knesset seats, sufficient to reduce the coalition’s 64-seat edge to 59 in the 120-member house. They left the government to protest peace talks with the Palestinians.

Shamir is expected to submit his resignation to President Chaim Herzog, but not before the Knesset establishes a date for early elections and votes to dissolve itself. The outgoing government would remain in office as a caretaker regime.

Haim Ramon, chairman of Labor’s Knesset faction, approached his Likud counterpart, Sara Doron, on Monday to discuss an election date. Doron told reporters later that she would consult with her party colleagues and respond.

Ramon indicated that Labor would not attempt to unseat Likud with a no-confidence motion, a sign that the party’s chairman, Shimon Peres, has been overruled.

Peres had been pressing for a no-confidence vote on economic issues. A motion was expected on the Knesset floor this week, and were it to pass, Labor could attempt to put together an alternative coalition government.

But Ramon and other Labor leaders, including Peres’ rival, Yitzhak Rabin, made clear they were not interested in cobbling together a new government, necessarily of short duration because the law mandates Knesset elections by November.

Peres got into further hot water with his party by proposing that peace talks be frozen for the duration of the election campaign.

Even though he urged a short campaign he was publicly castigated Monday by Rabin. The former defense minister said that while he had no doubt Likud was incapable of progressing toward peace, it would be wrong, and damaging to Labor to propose even a temporary cessation of talks.

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