JERUSALEM (Jul. 17)
Prof. Avner Sciaky withdrew his resignation from the government today and indicated that he would start a legal fight against his ouster from the post of Deputy Minister of Education. Sciaky was fired from the Cabinet yesterday for violating coalition discipline when he failed to abstain in last Wednesday’s Knesset vote on the halachic conversion bill opposed by the government. The other 11 members of the NRP’s Knesset faction abstained as per their agreement with Premier Golda Meir.
Sciaky, a lawyer by training and a university professor, claimed today that there were no constitutional grounds to fire a deputy minister who voted against the government on a matter of conscience. He also said that his letter of resignation to Deputy Premier and Education Minister Yigal Allon was invalid because it reached Allon after the Cabinet voted to fire him. He telephoned Allon early this morning to withdraw the resignation.
Aides to Sciaky said today that he has already received pledges of support from “hundreds” of NRP members, many of them Sephardim like himself, urging him to withdraw his resignation and fight for reinstatement through the party. Sciaky said yesterday that he was considering leaving the NRP but there have been no further pronouncements from him in that direction. NRP Minister Assailed
Meanwhile, a bitter fight appeared to be shaping up within the NRP. Yitzhak Raphael, chairman of the party’s Knesset faction today assailed the three NRP Cabinet ministers–Yosef Burg, Zerach Warhaftig and Michael Hazani–for not “standing up” for Sciaky at yesterday’s session. It was learned today that it was Allon, not one of the NRP ministers as reported earlier, who proposed that the Cabinet make do with a reprimand instead of firing Sciaky. It was also learned that Allon, a Labor Party leader, and Absorption Mini- ster Natan Peled, of the leftist Mapam faction, joined the NRP ministers in abstaining on the dismissal vote.
Raphael’s attack on the three NRP ministers was not unexpected as he has long been at odds with them. Raphael was absent from the Knesset when it voted on the bill that would have amended the Law of Return to specify that only conversions according to halacha (religious law) are valid.
Dr. Burg, who is Minister of Health and Hazani, Minister of Welfare, retorted today that they did their best to save Sciaky’s job. There was no comment from Religious Affairs Minister Warhaftig. Raphael meanwhile is pressing the NRP executive to meet on the Sciaky ouster. The Agudat Israel, sponsors of the halachic conversion bill, asked the Knesset today for an urgent debate on the Sciaky matter. The Knesset presidium has not made a decision on the request. Observers here said it was apparently the Agudat Israel’s intention to further embarrass their arch-rival, the NRP.