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Support for Shamir fades fast in Israel

Israel's shaky right-wing government seemed by late Thursday increasingly likely to be forced to call early national elections. Amid the country's worst economic crisis in years, the coalition of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was, at time of writing, struggling to survive a parliamentary call to hold elections before the currently scheduled date in 1985 .

Other government policies have also come under increasing opposition criticism. These include the war in Lebanon and Jewish settlement of the occupied West Bank. But it is the economy that is dominating Israeli politics, and most undermining the current Cabinet's position.

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Political analysts here said that even if Shamir's coalition were to survive the vote the count would be close, emphasizing the government's steadily weaker position.

Forcing the vote was a decision earlier this week by one of Shamir's coalition partners - the small Tami Party - to denounce government economic policies and introduce a parliamentary motion for early elections.

Opinion polls have shown that, if balloting were held now, the more left-leaning Labor Party would likely win enough votes to form the next government.

But it seemed highly unlikely Labor would win comfortably enough to avoid the necessity of forming a coalition with other, smaller parties - quite likely including some currently in alliance with Shamir.

Labor is on the record as favoring an early Israeli pullout from Lebanon, deemphasis of West Bank settlement, and greater efforts to investigate chances of an eventual peace settlement with neighboring Jordan.

Yet the earliest elections could occur, analysts said, would probably be several months off. The Shamir coalition still dominates various key parliamentary committes, and could thus drag out the process of setting a new election date for some time. Also, the Israeli parliament is scheduled to take a recess soon.

Even if a Labor-led coalition is elected, it was unclear whether such a government actually would - or could - move to make major policy changes. While the Israeli right is facing hard times as a governing force, it would be a formidable opposition voice should Labor win an early election.

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Meanwhile, the sense that an early election will come, has focused attention on two prominent political figures intent on emerging from a recent eclipse. One is former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon - architect of the Lebanon war, a member of the ruling coalition, but on increasingly strained terms with Shamir.

The other is a yet earlier defense minister - Ezer Weizman. With Tami's move earlier this week, Mr. Weizman announced he would form a new, centrist party. His later remarks suggest one policy plank would be a rethinking of policy in Lebanon.

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