Eshkol Government Easily Defeats Knesset Non-confidence Vote on West Bank Issue

The Knesset (Parliament) by a majority vote today defeated a motion of no confidence in the Government of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. The vote, 74-five, with seven abstentions, came only hours after Mr. Eshkol and Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon managed to avert a break in the coalition Cabinet.

The motion of non-confidence and the Cabinet crisis stemmed from remarks attributed to Mr. Eshkol which were published this week in Newsweek magazine. He reportedly told Newsweek’s senior editor, Arnaud de Borchgrave, in an interview that Israel was not interested in retaining the heavily populated Arab centers on the West Bank such as Nablus and Jenin. The Gahal (Herut-Liberal Party alignment), which opposes Israeli withdrawal from the Arabs territories occupied in the June, 1967 war, seized upon the alleged remark as a “sell-out” to the Arabs. The National Religious Party, another coalition partner, claimed that it did not reflect the position adopted by the Cabinet or approved by the Knesset.

The motion on non-confidence was introduced by the four-member Free Center faction, a group that broke away from Herut several years ago but which shares its views on the occupied territories. The motion’s fate was never in doubt. However, the threat of a split in Mr. Eshkol’s “national unity” Cabinet loomed as a possibility. It was removed today following a meeting of Gahal ministers with Mr. Eshkol which was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Allon. The Gahal ministers said afterwards that they would support Mr. Eshkol in the Knesset. Representatives of the religious bloc met separately with Mr. Allon and said later that they would make every effort to preserve the coalition.

ALLON SAYS VERSION ESHKOL SAW DID NOT CONTAIN CONTROVERSIAL STATEMENT

The coalition partners were apparently satisfied with the Prime Minister’s explanation that the remark attributed to him was not authorized. Mr. Allon said, after the Knesset debate today, that he had “read carefully” the version presented for Mr. Eshkol’s approval before the interview was cabled from Jerusalem to New York. He said the controversial paragraph was not included in that version and there was no reference at all to the political future of the West Bank in the story which Mr. Eshkol approved. Mr. Allon said he assumed the alleged remarks were based on impressions gathered by the Newsweek editor in the course of a more than two-hour conversation with the Prime Minister. He said Mr. Eshkol provided considerable background material during the interview.

Foreign Minister Abba Eban said at a meeting of the Jerusalem Press Club today that some members of the Cabinet believe that secure borders for Israel do not necessitate Israel’s rule over one-and-a-half million Arabs. He said the Government has not yet decided on any plan.

Shmuel Tamir, head of the Free Center faction, said he talked with the Newsweek editor who, he claimed, confirmed that Mr. Eshkol had made the remark in question. Observers here said that the affair was closed as a result of today’s events. However, in the opinion of some, it indicated a trend among some members of the Government–Mr. Eshkol, Mr. Allon, Mr. Eban and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan–to favor withdrawal from the occupied territories except for the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, Gaza and Sharm el-Shiekh.

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