Rabin fashions working alliance for new Cabinet Israeli sets course for faster peace talks

July 10, 1992|By New York Times News Service

JERUSALEM -- Yitzhak Rabin put together a working coalition last night for the new Israeli government he will lead, one that is committed to rapid progress in Middle East peace negotiations.

The alliance that Mr. Rabin's Labor Party formed was not as broad or as politically balanced as he had hoped, and negotiations were expected to continue into the weekend.

So were discussions on many key Cabinet assignments, which have to be settled among Labor politicians and their allies from small parties. Senior Labor officials predicted that former Prime Minister Shimon Peres would be named foreign minister but that Rabin would retain personal responsibility for the peace process.

It was not clear who the defense minister might be, and there was speculation among his Labor colleagues that Mr. Rabin, who held the job in the 1980s, might keep the post for himself and designate someone else to run day-to-day operations.

Despite these lingering uncertainties, Mr. Rabin scored an important success in reaching an assured parliamentary majority. And by the normal, creaking standards of Israeli coalition-building, he did it with breakneck speed.

He signed agreements last night with the left-wing Meretz movement and with the Shas religious party, giving him control over 62 of Parliament's 120 seats. In addition, two Arab parties are expected to support the new coalition, even though they will remain outside the government.

"The election results brought about an atmosphere of change that the people are looking for," Mr. Rabin said.

There was a chance that he would also be joined before long by another party of rigorously Orthodox Jews, United Torah Judaism, which has reservations about this alliance but also has no desire to sit outside, cut off from guaranteed government funds for its schools and other institutions.

Assuming that United Torah does say yes, Mr. Rabin will be able to go to the opening session of the new Parliament on Monday with 71 seats in his pocket: Labor's 44, Meretz's 12, Shas' six, the Arabs' five and United Torah's four.

It means a healthy majority for the new course he has pledged to set for Israel, based on speeded-up peace talks, curtailed settlement-building in the occupied territories and a shift of state money from the territories to social and economic needs in Israel proper.

Still, the deals struck yesterday were not entirely what the Labor leader had wanted. Since June 23, he has looked for a sweeping left-right-religious alliance that would put him squarely in the middle, unquestionably dominant and unable to be brought down by any single party. With the numbers that he has now, that is not the case.

If Meretz walked out on him suddenly, he would lose his majority. And that party stated for the record last night its intention to assert its own agenda, which differs from Labor's on key issues, including its acceptance of Palestinian self-determination and peace talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Mr. Rabin is especially eager to bring in Tsomet, an eight-seat party on the far right, which disapproves of his willingness to exchange land for Arab assurances of peace but which finds common points on other issues.

But seemingly cordial talks with Tsomet suddenly turned sour in the last two days over the insistence by that party's leader, Rafael Eitan, to be named education minister, an important position with considerable authority over school curriculums and funds and cultural matters.

When Mr. Rabin promised the post to Shulamit Aloni, head of Meretz, Mr. Eitan announced that if he did not get the defense ministry as compensation he would walk away for good.

Mr. Rabin would like to announce his Cabinet to Labor members on Sunday and then present it to Parliament for approval the next day.

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