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Rift Develops in Government Coalition; Gahal Refuses to Accept Mrs. Meir’s Report

A deep rift developed in Premier Golda Meir’s national coalition government today when the Gahal faction (Herut-Liberal alignment) refused to endorse the political report she delivered to the Knesset yesterday. The militantly nationalistic Gahal took exception to parts of her 90-minute report that implied Israel’s acceptance of the United Nations Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 resolution which calls, among other things, for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories. Gahal, the second largest faction in Mrs. Meir’s “wall-to-wall coalition,” abstained when a routine motion to accept the Prime Minister’s report was voted in the Knesset today. It was adopted 33-6 with 19 abstentions. The negative votes were cast by the two Communist factions and the Haolam Hazeh, a splinter party perennially in opposition to the government. Gahal’s abstention immediately raised talk of an impending cabinet crisis that could break up the all-embracing “unity” coalition that Mrs. Meir put together six months ago.

Questioned by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency right after the vote. Mrs. Meir said “At this stage I cannot say anything.” But some of her close aides dismissed the idea that the coalition was in trouble. One source said that neither Mrs. Meir’s Labor Party nor Gahal would gain anything by breaking up the government at this time and that Gahal was interested only in making its point–which it did. Another source said it was significant that Gahal risked a parting of the ways with the coalition in order to uphold its principles. It was pointed out that Mrs. Meir, in her report, merely rejected Arab charges that Israel has refused to accept the UN resolution but did not state categorically that the resolution was accepted by Israel. Instead she quoted a statement to that effect by Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations on May 1, 1968. Another portion of her report that may have angered Gahal MKs was a statement that Jewish settlement in the West Bank town of Hebron did not preclude returning it to Jordan after peace is concluded. Jews can live in Jordan too, Mrs. Meir said, adding that “the only condition that Israel stipulates for peace talks is peace.” However, she rejected Arab demands for Israeli withdrawal before peace is achieved. She noted that in 1967 it was the pre-war frontiers of Israel that the Arabs wanted to destroy.

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