Three religious parties continued to make demands as the price of their support for Prime Minister Menachem Begin today, although it was considered certain that they would join his Likud Party in forming a new government.
Israel's central elections commission certified the results of the June 30 national election, giving Likud an edge of 48 to 47 over the opposition Labor Party. That means President Yitzhak Navon can gegin consultations next week with the parties elected to the Knesset (parliament) before formally asking Begin to try to form a government.
The National Religious Party, the Tami splinter from it, and the ultra-orthodox Agudat Yisrael Party have all informally responded affirmatively to Begin's invitation to form a coalition government with 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset. But they continued to refine their demands in return for supporting him in another four-year term as prime minister.
The concession demands include distribution of Cabinet portfolios, special-interest legislation and funding for special programs in which the parties have an interest.
Competition for each of the 18 Cabinet posts is expected to be fierce, and Begin has to distribute the portfolios before making formal coalition agreements with his government partners.
Sources in the National Religious Party said today its executive committee had decided not to join the Likud-led coalition unless the party is given the religious affairs ministry portfolio, which the party has traditionally held in its previous alliances with Labor-led governments.
Religious Affairs Minister Aharon Abu-Hatzeira had demanded that his Tami Party be given the ministry, along with one other Cabinet seat, but he indicated yesterday that he would be willing to take another portfolio instead. iLikud sources said Begin is inclined to offer Abu-Hatzeira the Welfare Ministry portfolio.
Agudat Yisrael's leadership continued to put together demands, including an amendment to the Law of Return to require conversions to Judaism under the orthodox religious law. The party also seeks restrictions on sabbath work permits, a ban on the sale of port and more financial aid for Agudat religious schools.
The Agudat is not demanding Cabinet positions, and Sbegin indicated last night in a television interview that he agrees with Agudat's position on the "Who is a Jew" conversion issue.
Agudat leader Rabbi Menachem Porush said that while there are still some differences with Likud, he expects they well be resolved next week. The Agudat executive has not yet presented its concession recommendations to its governing body, the Council of Torah Sages, which will make the final decision on whether to join the coalition.
The Torah Sages, along with the four party members elected to the Knesset, had already indicated their preference for joining a Begin-led government.
Begin is understood to want to announce his coalition agreements July 20, when the 10th Knesset meets to swear in its members.
The official election results are: Likud 48 seats (37.1 percent of the vote), Labor 47 (36.5), National Religious 6 (4.9), Agudat 4 (3.7), Democratic Front for Peach and Equality (communists) 4 (3.3), Tehiya 3 (2.3), Tami 3 (2.3), Telem 2 (1.5), Shinui 2 (1.5) and Citizens' Rights Movement 1 (1.4).