Begin Takes Oath of Office After Long Debate in Knesset
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Begin Takes Oath of Office After Long Debate in Knesset

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The government of Premier Menachem Begin took the oath of office in the early hours of this morning after nine hours of angry, often bitter debate in the Knesset which emphasized the sharp cleavage between the new regime and its parliamentary opposition. Begin won the vote of confidence he had asked for in his inaugural speech to the Knesset as Premier yesterday afternoon.

But his 63-53 margin was strictly along party lines. Voting for the government were Likud, the National Religious Party (NRP) and Aguda bloc, Moshe Dayan and Samuel Flatto-Sharon. Negative votes were cast by the Labor Alignment, the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC), the Sheli and Rakah factions and the one-member factions of Gideon Hausner of the Independent Liberal Party and Shulamit Aloni of the Civil Rights Party. Four MKs were absent.

The debate was broadcast live on television. Shimon Peres, leader of the Labor Alignment, led the attack on the Begin coalition. He scored Likud for making controversial concessions to the religious bloc to an extent unknown in Israel before. He said the agreements under which the NRP and the Aguda joined the coalition “gives cause for great concern.” Begin has conceded to his coalition partners “many demands which have many grave implications” for our national life, Peres declared. He accused Begin of handing over to his religious partners conduct of State affairs “according to their particular version of a rabbinic outlook.”

Referring to the more emotional portions of Begin’s speech, Peres reminded the new Premier that “we are not declaring here the independence of the State of Israel. You seem to forget, Begin, that this was done over 29 years ago and not by your party.”


There was a good deal of heckling from both the government and opposition sides of the chamber during the prolonged debate. But a storm erupted when the new Foreign Minister, Moshe Dayan, mounted the podium. Dayan, the last speaker before the voting, had remained in an anteroom most of the night and did not hear the attacks on him by many of his former Labor Alignment colleagues. As he began to speak he was drowned out by catcalls and shouts from the Labor Alignment benches demanding that he return the Knesset seat to which he was elected on the Labor ticket.

When the Speaker finally restored order, Dayan said the new government differed from its predecessor on foreign policy matters on only one issue–its objection to the partition of the West Bank. “If the Arabs ever propose a partition we could always disagree among ourselves and even divide on it. But there is no point in doing so now, when they reject all our proposals and insist on total withdrawal,” the new Foreign Minister said.

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