JERUSALEM (Jan. 23)
The Likud government, deprived of its parliamentary majority, apparently has been saved from the ignominy of being toppled by a Labor-sponsored no-confidence motion next week.
The right-wing Tsomet party, which bolted Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s coalition last month, decided Thursday that it would not support the no-confidence measure, which the Knesset is scheduled to vote on Monday.
With Tsomet’s two-man faction behind it, the government can muster 61 votes in the 120-member Knesset, just enough to survive.
Unlike Tehiya and Moledet, the far-right parties that left the coalition Sunday for ideological reasons, Tsomet quit because Likud refused to allow its Knesset faction a free vote on an upcoming electoral reform bill, thereby ensuring its defeat.
But Tsomet’s leader, former Agriculture Minister Rafael Eitan, who supports reform, had second thoughts after Likud hinted it might introduce the measure it has so far blocked in committee.
Likud insists, however, that if adopted, the reform law must not take effect before the 1996 Knesset elections. The bill provides for election of the prime minister by popular ballot, separate from the party lists. Likud fears this would open the way for a charismatic Laborite or other non-Likud prime minister.
In any event, Tsomet decided not to help Labor overthrow the Likud regime and dictate when elections will be held.
Labor Party Secretary-General Micha Harish said Thursday that Labor would propose an election date as soon as it achieves the necessary majority in the Knesset.
Tsomet’s decision does not mean it will rejoin the coalition, though that option is being considered by the tiny party.
Unless it does, Shamir intends to call early elections himself. But he is not expected to decide the timing until the fate of Israel’s request for U.S. loan guarantees is clear.