JERUSALEM (Jul. 31)
Four motions of no-confidence in the government’s handling of the economy were defeated in the Knesset last night by a comfortable margin. Coalition MKs, including many critics of Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich’s economic policies, mustered 58 votes against 48 by the opposition factions. The motions were submitted by the Labor Alignment, Shai, the Communist Party and Shell.
They charged that the government has taken a series of economic measures that produced a crisis atmosphere, that it has mismanaged the fight against inflation and acted indecisively. The main thrust of the opposition was against Ehrlich, who first called for the elimination of costly price support subsidies for basic goods and services and then back-tracked because he feared the devastating effects of the sudden price increases that would follow.
The no-confidence motions were to have been presented a week ago when public sentiment was running high against Ehrlich’s performance. They were delayed at the urging of the Knesset Presidium because of Premier Menachem Begin’s illness but could not be postponed any longer because the Knesset adjourns for its summer recess this week.
The debate last night was calm in contrast to the flaring tempers that marked recent Knesset deliberations. Ehrlich, speaking for the government, said there was no alternative to reducing price subsidies but the government is doing so gradually in order to prevent unemployment and unnecessary shocks to the economy.
Following the vote, Ehrlich announced officially the dismissal of Yehezkel Flomin, his Deputy Finance Minister, who was the most outspoken critic of his economic policies within the Liberal Party, Flomin took an “extended leave” earlier this month to protest the government’s economic program. He was not present in the Knesset last night.