Italy's premier-designate Bettino Craxi is out to consolidate his new government's standing so that it will last at least until the end of its legitimate term -- mid-1988. The target may seem modest, but predictions are that his task will not be an easy one. Mr. Craxi resigned as prime minister last week after three members of his coalition government withdrew their support over the government's handling of the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro. On Monday, Italian President Francesco Cossiga asked Craxi, a Socialist, to form a new government.
While the five parties of his previous coalition (the Christian Democrats, the Socialists, the Republicans, the Social Democrats, and the Liberals) have announced they are willing to reconstruct the old alliance, Craxi is aware that simply gluing the pieces together again is not enough.
``Indications which point toward a political parliamentary formula are not enough,'' he said Monday after receiving his mandate from Francesco Cossiga. ``The political forces must reach an agreement which works out to be a firm and solid one as regards both principles and programs. This goes as much for Italy's international role as for internal politics.''
Craxi went on to say that while government programs were negotiable, principles were not. This was taken as a hint of his willingness to make peace with the small Republican Party, whose leader, Defense Minister Giovanni Spadolini, brought down the government in a disagreement over Craxi's handling of the Palestinians who hijacked the cruise ship.
Mr. Spadolini complained that he had not been consulted on crucial decisions regarding the release of Palestinian leader Muhammad Abbas, who the United States says masterminded the hijacking.
As a member of the cabinet, Spadolini had often stressed the need to keep the principle of ``collegiality'' as an essential part of the government's code of behavior.
After meeting with Craxi yesterday Spadolini expressed his hope that the government crisis would be quickly solved, but also announced that negotiations were still in the ``preliminary stages.''
Today Craxi is to complete talks with all party leaders before leaving tommorrow for New York to participate in the Western summit and the 40th anniversary celebrations of the United Nations.
Meanwhile on the foreign policy front, Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti has had what were termed by the press ``cordial and serene'' talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Luxembourg Monday. Mr. Andreotti, who is likely to stay on in his position as foreign minister in the new government, also spoke in a press interview of the strain in relations with the US over the hijacking. He said he considered President Reagan ``to have been hurriedly and inaccurately informed'' on the events of th e Achille Lauro hijacking. But, he added, ``fortunately there are ministers in the American government who know Italy well and were able to make immediate rectifications.'' He also welcomed the conciliatory letter which Reagan sent to Craxi over the weekend.
While Italy's present Cabinet is aware of the need to stand firm and uncompromising in the face of international terrorism, as well as to maintain friendly relations with the Middle East countries, there seems to be more resolve to do so without stop-gap measures or calling on superpower aid.
In the leftist weekly L'Espresso, editor Giovanni Valentini writes that the Middle East conflict is one of worldwide dimensions and demands that the Italian government strive to find a balance among nations in the West and the Middle East.
``This is not the time either for us or for others to try small underhand maneuvers or piecemeal solutions. Measuring up to the Middle East question means intervening -- even through diplomatic channels -- in a world conflict with all the consequential risks and effects.''