JERUSALEM (Nov. 13)
Premier Menachem Begin refused today to give the leaders of the Aguda Israel any promise as to when he will try again to put through an amendment to the abortion law demanded by the ultra-Orthodox party. The government failed to gain a majority on the amendment, which eliminates abortions for economic and social reasons, when it deadlocked at 54-54 on its first reading in the Knesset Monday.
At a brief meeting with Aguda MKs Shlomo Lorincz and Menachem Porush, and Yehuda Ben Meir, the National Religious Party Whip, Begin refused to be pinned down to an early try. Deputy Premier Simcha Ehrlich said it would take a “cooling off” period of at least two months before the government could try again with any hopes of success.
Aguda had pledged before the Knesset vote that it would leave the government coalition if the amendment was not adopted by the end of this month. But it was apparent today that neither the four Aguda MKs nor Aguda’s Council of Sages, the Orthodox party’s highest authority, was anxious to leave the government or bring about its collapse.
In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at his retreat in Arad, Rabbi Simcha Bunam Alter, the Gerrer Rebbe, a power in the Council of Sages, indicated that even if Aguda formally left the coalition, and resigned its chairmanship of two Knesset committees, this did not mean it would become a “fighting opposition,” voting against the government on every issue.
The 81-year-old Rebbe seemed to imply that he sympathized with Begin and appreciated the Premier’s general attitude to religious issues. “I am not a politician,” Alter said. “What difference, this government or another government — while scores of Jewish children are being killed each day ….” (a reference to abortions.)
Alter expressed disillusionment with Labor leader Shimon Peres who, Alter said, had pledged to him that his party would not foil the amendment. “He was dancing in the aisles yesterday,” the Rebbe observed ruefully. (By David Landau)