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Knesset Majority Supports Israel’s Decision to Participate in Talks

By a comfortable majority of 50-19, the Knesset last night endorsed the government’s policy of participation in the Geneva peace conference. But the debate leading up to the vote of confidence was a stormy one. Knesset Speaker Israel Yeshayahu lost control of the preceedings for a time and near chaos erupted in the chamber.

The vote split along party lines with the Labor Alignment, the Independent Liberals and some leftwing opposition factions voting for the government’s policies, and the Likud opposition against them. The National Religious Party, a coalition partner, abstained because the government had agreed, albeit reluctantly, to participate in the Geneva talks on the Sabbath.

The opposition attack was led by Menachem Beigin, leader of Likud’s Herut faction. He accused the Labor Alignment of “blood libel” for branding his party the “war party.” He claimed that the government had, one-by-one, surrendered all its positions, as regards the auspices of the Geneva conference, the possible participation of Palestinians and other issues so that “Israel’s word is no longer taken seriously either in Washington or Moscew.” Beigin deplored the government’s failure to obtain the release of prisoners of war held by Syria. He assailed its failure to link the resupply of Egypt’s Third Army with the Syrian POW issue and demanded that this must be the first issue on the agenda of the Genera conference.

An uproar broke out when Alignment MK Haim Yadak, chairman of the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee, challenged Likud to state its position clearly on territorial compromise, particularly on the West Bank. If Likud favored a policy of “don’t give up an inch”-and he challenged its members to deny this-then its support of the Geneva conference was merely a bluff and its support for direct negotistions “is just so much eyewish,” he said.

Zadak also said that if Israel had linked the POWs in Egypt to those in Syria “we would have ### back ### at all.” He said the government would have preferred the Geneva talks to be held under U.S. rather than UN auspices “but political ### otherwise. He said there was ### to fear from UN auspices inasmuch as the ### and interfered in the Kilometer 101 talks with Egypt. “Our way,” said Zadok referring to government policy. “may not guarantee peace but in your way there is a guarantee of no peace.”

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