JERUSALEM (Jul. 29)
Israel edged toward a cabinet crisis today as the Meir government pressed the rightist Gahal faction to cancel its threat to quit the three-year-old coalition if the government accepts the United States peace Initiative in its present form. Meanwhile, the Knesset defeated today by a large majority a motion by the ultra-rightist Free Center splinter party to place the U.S. proposals on the agenda with a view toward rejecting them. MK Url Avnert. head of the leftist Haolam Hazeh-Koah Hadash, spoke out, on the other hand, for acceptance. At the request of deputy coalition chairman Israel Kargman of the Labor Alignment, the motion was postponed pending a governmental decision on the plan. The three Herut and three Liberal Ministers of Gahal. which holds 26 of the 120 Knesset seats, emerged late last night from a heated five-hour caucus in apparent adamancy against the U.S. plan. Herut’s Ezer Weizman, Minister of Transport and Communications, a leading hard-liner who is reportedly moderating his opposition, told newsmen after the caucus that “we are already 95 percent outside.” Another Minister said. “We may have to resign from the government.” Several head-on verbal clashes were said to have taken place between Herut leader Menachem Beigin and Liberal Aryeh L. Dultzin, with Mr. Dultzin leaning toward acceptance and Mr. Beigin declaring, “This is no initiative for peace, but for Israel’s destruction.” The apparent Herut-Liberal factionalism within Gahal last night contradicted earlier reports of substantial agreement among the six Ministers on opposition to the initiative.
The cabinet met for two hours this morning, but could not resolve its deadlock and put off further deliberations until tomorrow. The meeting was held in camera, but it is known that Foreign Minister Abba Eban presented a report on the situation and that the government sought to gain at least one more day’s time in which to persuade Gahal to come along. The cabinet meeting was preceded by an inconclusive conference between Gahal and a group of Labor Party Ministers. Gahal was to meet again tonight with the four Laborites–Minister of Justice Yaacov Shimshon Shapiro. Minister of Finance Pin-has Sapir and Ministers-Without-Portfolio Shimon Peres and Israel Galili. They were to convene at the Justice Ministry bureau, in an attempt to iron out intra-coalition differences and preserve governmental unity. On another front, activist circles of the National Religious Party stated that the NRP platform in last year’s elections included clauses advocating Israeli settlement in the occupied Arab territories. That position, they said, cannot square with an affirmative NRP reply to the American proposals, which calls for Israeli withdrawal from such areas. The NRP holds the Ministries of Religious Affairs, Social Welfare and Interior, although the latter has been vacant since the recent death of Haim Moshe Shapiro. The party has II Knesset seats.
The opposition of the nationalistic Gahal to any Israeli withdrawal was mirrored in its campaign slogan last year: “Indivisibility of the Homeland.” It is true that Gabal has remained in the coalition despite Premier Golda Meir’s recent declaration in the Knesset that Israel endorses United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. But. a Gahal spokesman explained today, “The Security Council resolution speaks of withdrawal to ‘secure and recognized’ borders, In our view such borders are identical with the present cease-fire lines. We can live with that resolution as long as or interpretation is not challenged.” The dominant Labor Party is, indeed, attempting to challenge that interpretation in order to maintain unity. To that end, it was reported by the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Labor Is prepared to offer Gahal the opportunity of abstaining from the vote on the U.S. plan. It is doubtful that Gahal, or at least its Herut membership, would accept such an offer, with the withdrawal issue such a cardinal point in the party’s program. But a split between Herut and the Liberals on the issue is by no means being ruled out.
DAYAN SEEN FAVORING U. S. PLAN; FRANCE BACKS U. S. PLAN TO SUPPORT DE-ESCALATION OF VIOLENCE
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan’s remark last night in Tel Aviv that “we are not strong enough to permit ourselves to give up even one friendship” was seen as evidence that be favors acceptance of the U.S. plan. “If gaining friendship requires compromises.” he told a student group, “we have to do it.” Gen. Dayan scotched reports that he was thinking of resigning if the government accepted the U.S. initiative, which does not specifically guarantee Israeli retention of the Golan Heights and other areas deemed essential by him for national security. Despite his apparent acceptance, however reluctantly, of the initiative as a major means of assuring continuation of American support for Israel, Gen. Dayan said last night that Israel is sufficiently strong not to have to accept proposals “enforced on us” by either allies or enemies. “We are strong enough to back our position,” he said. “We are not doomed to be broken. We have equipment, manpower and technology.”
(In Washington, Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., met again yesterday afternoon In Washington with Joseph J. Sisco. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. No details of the meeting were disclosed, although the Ambassador, who asked for both this and Monday’s meeting, presumably was seeking additional “clarifications” of the administration’s terms for a temporary Middle East cease-fire. Mr. Sisco met this morning with the Swiss ambassador as part of “a regular review of Middle East developments,” according to a State Department spokesman. He also met this morning with the French ambassador, but the nature of their talks was not divulged.) (Late today, the Pompidou government formally backed the U.S. Initiative at a cabinet meeting in the Elysee Palace. President Georges Pompidou said his government felt it had to “support the processes of de-escalation of violence, especially in the Middle East.”)