Crisis over Abortions Law Averted; Begin Imposes Confidence Vote

The coalition crisis over the abortions law has been averted for the present, and coalition leaders say they are confident it will be resolved finally soon. The turnabout came yesterday afternoon; when Premier Menachem Begin decided to impose what is known as the “Transfer Law” on the abortions amendment. This means in effect turning the vote on the amendment into a vote of confidence in the government.

Begin did this after the six coalition “rebels” who opposed the amendment at its first reading informed him that they would vote for it if he turned it into an issue of confidence by imposing upon it the “Transfer Law.” The six are Sarah Doron, Ehud Olmert, Zalman Shuval, Avraham Katz and Yitzhak Berman, all of Likud; and Akiva Not of the Democratic Movement.

A compromise reached last Sunday between the Likud’s Liberal Party “rebels” and the Aguda Knesset faction to re-word the abortion amendment was apparently abandoned after the Aguda “Sages” flatly rejected it. The Likud MKs who had opposed the original amendment on grounds of conscience indicated that they will now vote But it since Begin has made the issue one of confluence in the government. The compromise would have eliminated clause five of the abortion law which allows abortions for socio-economic reasons, as demanded by the Aguda. But it would have transferred much of the substance of clause five to clause four. This was unacceptable to the rebbes.

BEGIN’S TACTIC BUYS TIME

As a result of Begin’s new tactic, Aguda Israel’s “Council of Sages,” which convened in Jerusalem, gave its Knesseters another two weeks in which to ensure that the amendment goes through. According to the Sage’s decision; if the amendment is not passed by then, the party must leave the coalition immediately and automatically. “This is our final session on this subject,” the 13 Sages who attended the meeting declared. Three Council members did not attend.

Aguda Knesseters said later the Sages had been unanimous — in the wake of confident assurances by Knesseters Shlomo Lorincz and Menachem Porush that the government majority for the amendment was now secured. The Knesseters said they had informed the Sages that Labor Party members in the Knesset Were saying that Begin had erred, and that there was no majority. “But this is groundless,” Porush said, His own calculations showed a clear majority, he asserted.

The Laborites’ skepticism is based among other things, upon the assumption that the two ultra-nationalist Tehiya Knesset members Geula Cohen and Moshe Shamir, who supported the amendment at the first reading will oppose it now that it has become a matter of confidence. Cohen indeed told this reporter that she would urge the Tehiya central committee to instruct her and Shamir to vote against the government.

Furthermore, Rabbi Menahem Hacohen of the Labor Party, who abstained in the original vote, can be expected to vote with his party now that the issue is only technically that of confidence — and in fact that of the government’s survival. But the Aguda members and coalition leaders say they have taken these factors into account and are still confident of their majority.

The “Transfer Law” imposition will not apply Begin has made clear, to the Democratic Movement’s six members — since the DM is not a party to the coalition agreement with Aguda on matters of religion as are Likud and the National Religious Party. Nevertheless, coalition leaders expect at-least some DM Knesseters to vote with the government. It is not yet known when precisely the vote will be taken.

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