• Short Summary

    There have been major political developments in Israel during the past two weeks. The latest?

  • Description

    There have been major political developments in Israel during the past two weeks. The latest came on Tuesday (4 January) when President Ephraim Katzir formally asked Prime Minister Rabin to form a new government -- at the same time as news broke that Israeli Housing Minister Avraham Ofer had committed suicide.

    One of Mr. Ofer's last public appearances took place in December, when he accompanied Mr. Rabin on this tour of a new housing estate at Yamit. Mr. Ofer had been a minister in Mr. Rabin's labour alignment and most Israelis were stunned to her of his death. Before entering the government Mr. Ofer was Director-General of the giant Shikun Ovdim construction firm, owned by a trade union group.

    High level police investigations into allegations of corruption during his time with the company were in progress when he died. Mr. Ofer left a note denying that he had embezzled public funds -- before shooting himself in his car on a deserted beach near Tel Aviv on Monday (3 January). Mr. Ofer will receive a state funeral -- as called for by Israeli government custom on the death of a service minister.

    However the Polish born minister's death at the age of 55 is not expected to have much influence on the current political situation in Israel. One opposition politician, retired Major-General Ezer Weizman, has already said that he will not make use of it and his statement appears to reflect the feelings of most Israelis.

    While the Israeli man in the street was absorbing the news of Mr. Ofer's death, Prime Minister Rabin was on his way to visit President Ephraim Katzir in Jerusalem -- for what observers there describe as a constitutional formality. It amounted to the President asking Mr. Rabin to form a new government -- and Mr. Rabin announced his acceptance. The Prime Minister at present heads a minority caretaker cabinet, made up only of Labour ministers -- following his dismissal of three national religious party ministers and the resignation of two ministers from the Independent Liberal Party two weeks ago.

    Mr. Rabin's new government will also be and interim measure -- he has 21 days to work out his plans, with the possibility of a 21 day extension, but in May there will be a general election.

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