JERUSALEM (Sep. 8)
The Israel Government today defended its decision to sell a nationalized chemical and fertilizer producing plant to private American interests as every party in the Opposition took the floor in a special Parliamentary session to attack the proposal.
Called at the bidding of the Opposition, which mustered more than the one-fourth of the Knesset membership behind a petition demanding a special session, today’s meeting was scheduled to deal chiefly with foreign policy–particularly the favorable vote of the Israel delegation at the United Nations on a joint Arab resolution at the special General Assembly. Other points on the agenda were criticism of the decision to sell the plant and the report of an investigating committee which studied the recent Shattah Prison break.
The Mapam Party, whose Minister for Development, Mordecal Bentov had first raised the hue and cry over the plant’s sale, was silent. Mr. Bentov, who last week threatened disruption of the coalition Cabinet over the issue, had charged that the plant was being sold against the interests of the nation and for a price approximately half its true worth.
Leading off in the attack on the government, was Herut chief Menahem Beigin who insisted that the Knesset should have been consulted before the decision was reached. It is the Parliament’s prerogatives to decide which nationalized enterprises shall be sold and under what conditions, he asserted. Another speaker who did not object in principle to the sale was General Zionist deputy Zalman Suzayeff. He demanded that the Knesset’s Finance Committee exercise control over such sales.
Esther Wilenska, Communist deputy, however, demanded a national policy guaranteeing that nationalized industries would not be sold to private interests. Other speakers represented the National Religious Party and the Agudas Israel.
Finance Minister Levi Eshkol, on behalf of the government, pictured the proposed sale as a means of attracting further capital investments in the Israel economy. He cited a rising interest among investors from abroad in Israeli business opportunities and insisted that the sale of the plant would heighten such interest. He suggested, and all parties except the Communist agreed, that the decision be debated in the Knesset Finance Committee.
Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd., of Haifa, is the largest concern in the chemical and pharmaceutical field; which last year exported products worth $7,149, 223, The Israel Government has a 50 percent interest in the company and has made large loans to it. All of its plants are running at or near top capacity. Among its products are sulphuric acid, single super phosphates, ammonium sulphate, hydrochloric acid and dicalcium phosphates.