JERUSALEM (Jul. 2)
As expected, President Chaim Herzog asked Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin on Thursday to form Israel’s next government.
Rabin accepted the task and said he would aim to form a coalition that includes both right-wing and left-wing parties.
He was given 21 days to complete the task. However, if he fails to assemble a coalition within this period, the president has the legal authority to grant him additional time.
Rabin told the president he would do everything in his power to complete the mission as quickly as possible. He hopes to present the new government when the new Knesset convenes for the first time on July 13.
But his task will be complicated by fundamental policy differences between the two parties he is courting: the left-wing Meretz bloc, which will hold 12 seats in the new Knesset, and the right-wing Tsomet party, which will have eight seats.
Meretz insists on a freeze on construction of Jewish settlements in the administered territories, which it believes should ultimately be given to the Palestinians. Tsomet opposes both a freeze and any territorial compromise.
The only thing that unites the two parties is their hostility to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox haredi parties, which Rabin is also said to be courting.
Referring to the apparent difficulties in bringing these parties together into a united government, Rabin told reporters after the ceremony with the president that in his view, Labor represents the mainstream of the people of Israel.
“I would like to have a government with one party to the left and another party to the right,” he said. But he declined to state a preference over which parties to include in his coalition.