Gahal Continues to Hold Stormy Meeting to Decide Whether It Will Remain in the Cabinet
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Gahal Continues to Hold Stormy Meeting to Decide Whether It Will Remain in the Cabinet

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Suspense mounted in Israel tonight as the Knesset prepared for tomorrow’s debate on the government’s acceptance of the latest U.S. proposals for a Mideast settlement. Meanwhile national attention was riveted on the meeting of the Gahal faction’s two executive committees to decide whether Israel’s second largest political party will leave the coalition government in protest against acceptance of the American plan. The Gahal meeting, obviously a stormy one. began at 5 p.m. local time. All indications were that it would last into the early hours of tomorrow morning before a decision is reached. Premier Golda Meir will address the Knesset tomorrow afternoon. She is expected to defend her government’s position in accepting Secretary of State William P. Rogers’ proposed 90-day cease-fire and negotiations through United Nations envoy Gunnar V. Jarring. Mrs. Meir’s special cabinet committee drafting Israel’s official reply to the U.S. will hold its second and probably final meeting tomorrow. The text is expected to be ready for final approval by the full cabinet in time for Mrs. Meir’s Knesset speech. Additional clarifications requested from Washington have reportedly been received. But the final text of Israel’s reply is considered likely to be influenced by whether or not Gahal remains in the government.

A motion of no confidence in the government has been filed by Shmuel Tamir of the small, right-wing Free Center faction and according to Knesset procedure it will be the first order of business at tomorrow’s session. It is virtually certain to be defeated. But the motion and its rebuttal, by Mrs. Meir, or some other Cabinet minister, will have to contain some elements of the Prime Minister’s political statement which could thereby be rendered anti-climactic before it is delivered. Political observers said the debate over Mrs. Meir’s speech promised to be prolonged and with parliamentary maneuvering by opposing factions, the crucial vote could be delayed by as much as two days. Three left-wing factions which have perennially voted against the government on almost all issues announced today that they had reversed their normal position and will vote in favor of acceptance of the U.S. plan. The factions are the pro-Moscow Rakah Communists, the anti-Moscow and pro-Israel Maki Communists, and the New Left Haolam Hazeh. The Agudat Israel said it will abstain. The Poale Agudat Israel is still debating what position to take. Gahal is bitterly opposed to the Rogers plan but is split over whether to bolt the cabinet once the plan is officially accepted by the government. Gahal’s Herut wing, headed by Menachem Beigin, is adamantly opposed to remaining in the coalition under those circumstances. The Liberal wing, headed by Joseph Sapir. wants to stay in the government for the sake of national unity.


Tonight’s meeting brought together the 117-member executive committees of each wing of Gahal, Because of the serious nature of the issue, each committee enlarged its membership by appointing an ad hoc executive council. As a result, some 400 Gahal party leaders are attending. Efforts continued well past midnight last night to persuade Mr. Beigin to stay in the cabinet. The strongest appeals to him were made by his colleagues of the National Religious Party. While Mr. Beigin is not personally observant by Orthodox standards, he has generally supported the Orthodox bloc on religious issues. Additional pressure was brought to bear by Gahal’s youth wing which said it would demonstrate in favor of coalition unity while the party’s executive committees met. So far however there was no indication that the militant right-wing leader might yield. Addressing the opening ceremonies at the Jabotinsky Museum and Institute in Tel Aviv, named for the late Zionist Revisionist leader, Mr. Beigin called for the establishment of a movement to fight against Israeli withdrawal from any of the Arab territories occupied in the June. 1967 war. He suggested that the movement be headed by the aged labor leader, Itzhak Tabenkin who was a personal friend of Jabotinsky.

Liberal leaders. Mr. Sapir and Leon Doltzin among them. openly favor remaining in the coalition. However they appear loath to break up Gahal which emerged from last year’s Knesset elections as Israel’s second largest party. They have said, “We entered the government together and we shall leave it–if it is so decided–together.” The alternative to leaving the government would be acceptance of a compromise proposal by Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir of the Labor Party that would allow Gahal to vote in the Knesset against acceptance of the U.S. peace initiative without breaching coalition discipline. Shimon Peres, a Minister-Without-Portfolio representing the Labor Party urged Gahal today to base its decision on the government’s deeds, not on “assumptions and conceptions which were long ago shattered.” Mr. Peres spoke on his departure on a visit to Latin America and the U.S.

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