JERUSALEM (Nov. 7)
The Knesset gave its final stamp of approval to Premier Menachem Begin’s Cabinet reorganization tonight with a comfortable margin, but not before a prolonged, bitter debate that hanged over a variety of unrelated issues. By a vote of 58-34 it endorsed the appointment of Yigal Hurwitz as the new Finance Minister and the elevation of former finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich to the newly created post of second Deputy Premier.
Hurwitz, the former Minister of Commerce who resigned from Begin’s government earlier this year in protest against the Camp David accords, was sworn in immediately. Ehrlich was hot required to take a new oath of office. The reshuffle was made possible when the Knesset voted last night to approve an amendment to the basic law governing the government’s structure, that authorized Begin to name a second deputy.
Earlier today, the Cabinet approved the new appointments at a brief ceremony in which Begin thanked Ehrlich for his 21/2 years of service in the Treasury post and expressed hope that his successor will fulfill all expectations.
Begin was unable to implement another planned Cabinet change, the appointment of Minister-Without-Portfolio Moshe Nissim to the post of minister of Information. There is no such ministry in the present government and Nissim, who had agreed to take the job, changed his mind at the last minute because of severe opposition from other ministries that engage in information functions. He backed down after Yosef Ciechanover, director general of the Foreign Ministry, made it clear that the Foreign Ministry’s information apparatus would not be relinquished.
The matter is not expected to be resolved until Begin appoints a new Foreign Minister to replace Moshe Dayan who resigned Oct. 21. So far, Begin has chosen to hold that all important and sensitive appointment In abeyance and has undertaken the duties of Foreign Minister himself.
RESHUFFLE FACED SEVERAL ROADBLOCKS
The Cabinet reshuffle faced several road blocks in the Knesset and it was uncertain for a time that Begin would be able to muster a majority to push it through. The Democratic Movement, which holds seven Knesset seats, is unhappy over the creation of a second Deputy Premier because it fears this will inevitably erode the powers of Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin, leader of that faction. Five Democratic Movement MKs absented themselves from the chamber during tonight’s voting.
A more serious obstacle, that Begin overcame, at least temporarily, was the threat by the Aguda Israel bloc to vote against the Cabinet change unless a restrictive amendment to the abortion law was passed first by the Knesset. Without the four Aguda votes, the Cabinet plan appeared in jeopardy. But many members of Begin’s coalition are firmly apposed to the. abortion amendment.
The Premier was able to convince the Aguda that a Knesset vote now would have been disastrous for the amendment and that he needed time to persuade the opponents to change their minds. The Aguda supported the government on the Cabinet change but renewed its threat to leave the coalition if the abortion amendment is not eventually adopted.
ATTACK ON THE GOVERNMENT
During the Knesset debate Shimon Peres, chairman of the opposition Labor Party, led a fierce attack on the government. He denounced its policies which, he said among other things, resulted in an improved image for the Palestine Liberation Organization on the world scene. Begin rejected the charge.
Peres and other speakers expressed outrage over remarks attributed to Mayor Bassam Shaka of Nablus identifying himself with the terrorists who carried out the massacre along Israel’s coastal highway in March, 1978. Begin said he would not comment on the matter but that he had instructed Defense Minister Ezer Weizman to examine the entire incident and “draw the necessary conclusions.” (See separate story.)