All Party Members Must Vote on Law of Return Amendment or Face Disciplinary Action

By an 18-nine vote last night the Labor Party’s parliamentary faction decided that all Party members must vote in favor of a controversial amendment to the Law of Return or face action for breach of Party discipline. The vote was taken after members of the Achdut Avodah wing and other factions making up the Labor Party asked for freedom to vote as they saw fit on the Government-sponsored amendment which would establish religious criteria as the sole determinant of who is entitled to Jewish nationality.

The Cabinet agreed today to grant Knesset members of the Independent Liberal Party the right of abstention on the measure but warned that if any of them voted against it coalition discipline would be invoked. According to Cabinet rules no ministers or members of a faction represented in the Government may oppose a Government-sponsored bill without prior permission. Debate on the measure began in the Knesset yesterday and continued today. Premier Golda Meir insisted that the bill must be adopted by a large majority. But observers of the parliamentary scene expect many Labor Party members to absent themselves from the Knesset when the issue comes up for a vote.

SEEK TO PUSH MEASURE THROUGH QUICKLY TO AVERT MOUNTING PUBLIC OPPOSITION

Opponents of the amendment view it as appeasement of the rabbinate and the Orthodox political parties. But Mrs. Meir and a majority of her coalition apparently consider it vital to preserve national unity. More than 2000 Israelis demonstrated against the bill in front of the Knesset yesterday. The Labor Party leadership is said to be determined to push the measure through the Knesset as quickly as possible to head off mounting public opposition. Under the Israeli system, members of the Knesset vote in accordance with the decisions of their party leaders. They have no specific constituencies.

Another issue that has sharply divided religious and secular elements in Israel–Sabbath television–comes up for another hearing before the Supreme Court on Sunday. The justices will consider two applications for orders Nisi, one aimed at continuing the Friday eve telecasts and the other aimed at banning them. The issue came to a head last fall when Premier Meir gave in to Orthodox pressure and tried to over-rule a decision by the independent Israel Broadcasting Authority to establish television broadcasts on a seven-day basis. Mrs. Meir was restrained by an 11th hour Supreme Court injunction obtained by a private citizen.

NEXT STORY