Inter-party talks aimed at forming a new coalition government started officially last night. A 16-member negotiating team representing the Labor Party under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin met with negotiating committees of the National Religious Party and the Independent Liberal Party. Labor sources said afterwards that the 21-day period allotted by law for the formation of a government was long enough for all parties concerned to reach agreement and indicated that Rabin would not ask for an extension.
Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir last night reaffirmed his backing of Rabin and pledged to assist him as much as possible. Sapir’s remarks signified to observers the Labor Party’s determination to form a new Cabinet without delay. Labor has reportedly taken a particularly hard line toward the NRP. The latter was given until next Sunday to decide whether to join a new Labor-led coalition and until then official negotiations with the religious party are in abeyance. Informal contacts are expected to continue, however.
Rabin said at a Labor Party leadership and Knesset faction meeting last night that he had already held informal, non-committal talks with Dr. Yosef Burg of the NRP and ILP leader Gideon Hausner. He said he fully expected to form a new coalition on the basis of the outgoing one which in his view is the only logical government. He implied that he was opposed to a national unity Cabinet embracing the opposition Likud.
NRP AGAIN UNDER SEVERE PRESSURE
The NRP is once again under severe pressure from within its ranks and from the Chief Rabbinate to insist on a national unity government and Orthodox demands on the Who is a Jew issue. Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren said in a radio broadcast last night that the Law of Return must be amended to specify that only persons converted “according to halacha” will be recognized as Jews. Although Rabbi Goren said he did not want to get involved in the political aspects of the issue, his remarks were expected to harden the NRP’s stand. NRP secretary general Zvi Bernstein said afterwards that Rabbi Goren was not likely to accept any compromise in the Who is a Jew controversy.
According to informed sources, the Labor Party made it clear to the NRP in last night’s preliminary talks that it will not re-open the Who is a Jew matter and insisted that the NRP honor the agreement it reached with Premier Golda Meir. last March which was the basis for its joining her government. The NRP reportedly wants to re-discuss the matter.
Knesset observers said today that it appears at the moment that Rabin has a better chance of forming a government without the NRP than with it. They said the NRP has “enlarged the gap” with the Labor Alignment and is under mounting pressure from the rabbinate to hold out for Orthodox demands. Rabin in that case will have to seek a coalition with the ILP and Shulamit Aloni’s Civil Rights Party. Ms. Aloni cut short a visit to the U.S. this week and is returning to Israel for coalition talks. (By Tuvia Mendelson.)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.