JERUSALEM (Jul. 13)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin came a step closer to extending his majority in the Knesset this week when he signed a coalition agreement with a small right-wing party.
The agreement with Yi’ud, a breakaway from Rafael Eitan’s right-wing Tsomet Party, was signed Tuesday and was expected to be formally ratified later in the week.
The agreement enables Rabin’s governing coalition to extend its majority in the Knesset by at leatleast two, and possibly three, members.
As a result of the agreement, Rabin will have control of 58 or 59 out of 120 Knesset seats.
His majority still depends on the support of Israeli Arab Knesset members, but that could soon change, since the agreement with Yi’ud was expected to pave the way for the return to the coalition of the fervently Orthodox Shas Party, which left the government late last year.
Shas officials said Tuesday that their return to the coalition would be facilitated by the addition of Yi’ud, which they said would act as a counterbance to the left-wing Meretz bloc, another coalition member.
Rabin has gone all out to extend the Jewish basis of his government.
For months, he has been vulnerable to charges made by the right wing that his governmentes majority in the Knesset is only sustainable with the help of the Arab parties.
The charge is particularly grave at a time when the Rabin government is pledged to a peace policy that may involve far-reaching territorial concessions to Arab states.
Under the new coalition agreement, Yi’ud will likely get one Cabinet seat, with its leader, Gonen Segev, becoming minister of energy. The post is currently held by Moshe Shahal, who is also police minister.
Segev’s deputy, Alex Goldfarb, is likely to become deputy housing minister.
The third Yi’ud Knesset member, Esther Salmovitz, has serious reservations about joining the coalition, and there is speculation that she may seek to return to Tsomet, the nationalist party from which the three members of Yi’ud defected earlier this year.
Shas expects to get control of two ministries, the interior and religous affairs portfolios, when and if it returns to the coalition.
The Cabinet reshuffle may enable Labor to add another minister to the Cabinet. Yossi Beilin, deputy foreign minister, is the likely candidate.