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Labor Party Rejects Proposals for National Unity Government

July 8, 1981
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The Labor Party has flatly rejected proposals from several sources that it join with Likud to form a national unity government. Convinced that the extremely close results of the June 30 elections show that at least half the population rejects the policies advocated by Premier Menachem Begin and that there is therefore no mandate for a national unity regime, Labor is mobilizing its forces to establish a powerful opposition bloc in the Knesset.

The national unity idea was reportedly raised by Zevulun Hammer, a leader of the National Religious Party, at a meeting yesterday with Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres. Hammer is said to have suggested that such a government remain in office until November, 1982 when new elections would be held coinciding with the municipal elections scheduled for that time.

Peres consulted later with the Labor Party leadership which unanimously rejected the proposal. Hammer reportedly made the offer on behalf of Begin. Begin, appearing on the ABC-TV “Issues and Answers” program last Sunday, dismissed the idea himself.


But the national unity idea was raised again today by former Finance Minister Yigal Hurwitz, the No. 2 man in Moshe Dayan’s Telem party, at a meeting with Peres Peres again turned it down but agreed to further meetings with Hurwitz. The Labor Party leader also met with key members of Geula Cohen’s ultra-nationalist Tehiya party. Cohen said afterwards that neither side tried to convince the other but both agreed to meet again.

The Labor Alignment began today to line up key positions in the new Knesset. It is reportedly seeking to install former Police Minister Shlomo Hillel as Speaker of the Knesset, replacing Likud’s Yitzhak Berman who announced that he is resigning the post. Labor has indicated that it will demand the chairmanship of at least two of the Knesset’s most powerful committees–Defense and Foreign Affairs and the Finance Committee. The latter is also demanded by the four-member Aguda Israel party as part of its price for joining a Likud-led coalition.


Meanwhile, prospects dimmed that former Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan would reach an agreement with Begin to enter his two-man Telem faction into a Likud coalition. Dayan’s bargaining position is weakened by the fact that Begin can muster a 61-seat majority in partnership with the three religious parties — the NRP, Aguda Israel and Aharon Abu Hatzeira’s Tami. The latter, which won three Knesset seats and represents Sephardic Jews, is traditionalist rather than strictly religious like the other two.

Although Begin would doubtlessly welcome Telem’s two mandates to bolster his fragile majority, the fundamental differences between the two men over autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip seem to preclude an agreement.

Dayan’s basic platform calls on Israel to implement autonomy unilaterally if no agreement can be reached with Egypt and the Palestinians. He believes that perpetuation of the present military occupation will result in increasing and endless hostility and violence in the territories. He also reportedly wants Begin to appoint him minister in charge of the autonomy talks with Egypt and the U.S.

Begin, for his part, has indicated that he intends to keep the NRP’s Yosef Burg in that position. Moreover, he insists that if the autonomy talks fail, the Camp David accords permit Israel to continue the status quo.

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