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October 06, 1989 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-10-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

POLITICS

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Israel's Political Year:
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Special to The Jewish News

W

e went to bed last
night with a narrow
government and
woke up this morning with a
national unity government,"
declared the news announcer
following the Likud and
Labor parties "cobbling
together" of a new broad-
based government.
Following the stalemate
produced by the Nov. Knesset
elections, prospects for a new
coalition swung precipitously
between a unity and a narrow
government where either
Labor or Likud would be ac-
companied by their left-or
right-wing allies respectively,
plus the religious parties. In
Dec., on election eve, however,
it was Prime Minister Yit-
zhak Shamir who looked
about to form such a narrow
government.
The Knesset elections and
the rise of Israel's second con-
secutive national unity
government were two of five
major events in Israel's
political year. Milestones that
followed included municipal
elections in Feb. that showed
massive gains for the Likud:
the unveiling in April of the
government's peace plan, in-
cluding autonomy elections
for Palestinians in the ter-
ritories; and the call in July
of the Likud's Central Com-
mitee to ammend the peace
plan, which sparked a govern-
ment crisis.
Eliahu Ben-Elissar is a
Likud member of Knesset,
chairman of the defense and
foreign affairs committee and
was Israel's first ambassador
to Egypt. In his opinion the
two major parties and their

respective allies are stuck at
about 55 Knesset seats each
and not even electoral reform
would break the stalemate.
"In spite of the deadlock,
Israel enjoys not only a
democratic system, but quite
a dimension of stability," Ben-
Elissar says.
Nevertheless, a perpetual
national unity regime that
can command a 97 out of 120
vote in the Knesset is hazar-
dous to a functional
parliamentary system. "I had
hoped the last Knesset would
be the last unity government,
but the alternative was
worse."
The alternative was a nar-
row coalition with the
religious parties. In the Nov.
polling, four religious parties
won 18 Knesset seats up from
12 in the last election. This
victory gave the-religious par-
ties unprecedented leverage
in coalition deals with Likud
and Labor. As a price for their
participation, the religious
parties demanded passage of
the "Who is a Jew?" bill, set-
ting the criterion for conver-
sion only according to
Halacha (Jewish Law). This
caused a furor among
Diaspora Jews and rankled
Likud and Labor politicians,
most of whom are not
religious.
When the major parties
formed the broad govern-
ment, they were "choosing
the lesser of two evils;' Ben-
Elissar says. At the same
time, the religious parties lost
most of their leverage, says
Member of Knesset Yossi
Sarid of the left wing
Citizens' Rights Movement
(Ratz). "But it has yet to be
seen whether the growth of
the religious parties is a one-
time phenomenon or the

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