JERUSALEM (Aug. 24)
Renewed efforts to expand Israel’s Labor-led government coalition have failed.
In an attempt to broaden his base of support, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin met Sunday with the head of the right-wing Tsomet party and representatives of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party. But he made no progress.
Labor formed a government a month and a half ago with the help of the left-wing Meretz party and the Sephardic religious party Shas. The three parties together command a bare majority of 62 in the 120-seat Knesset.
Rabin has persistently courted Tsomet and United Torah Judaism, whose Knesset strength would provide Labor with a comfortable 74-seat majority and a more centrist political orientation.
Tsomet leader Rafael Eitan emerged from his meeting with the prime minister criticizing newly announced concessions toward the Palestinians, and calling for expulsion of the 800 Arab prisoners to be released by the government in a good-will gesture.
Discussion between the two was said to have focused not on the government but rather on the creation of an industrial park in the Negev.
But a similar lack of progress attended coalition talks with United Torah leaders Menachem Porush and Avraham Shapira.
The two religious party leaders gave as their reason for staying out rabbinical opposition to the appointment of Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni to the post of education minister.
Aloni, an outspoken dove, is reviled by the Orthodox for her strong stand against the religious establishment.
The National Religious Party, too, announced Sunday that the present “path” of the Labor government prevented it from joining Meretz and Shas in the Labor-led coalition.