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Two Dm Mks Defect; Begin Knesset Majority Down to 63

Two members of the Democratic Movement (DM) announced today that they are leaving the party and the Likud-led coalition. Shafiq Assad, a Druze and Shlomo Eliahu, said they would form an independent faction to be called Achva (Brotherhood).

Knesset members may retain their seats even though they quit the party an whose list they were elected. The departures of Assod and Eliahu leaves the government coalition with a slim majority of 63 out of 120 Knesset seats. It includes the seats of former Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and former Defense Minister Ezer Weizman both of whom resigned from the government in disagreement with some of Premier Menachem Begin’s policies. Weizman in particular has spoken our vigorously against Begin’s policies.

The coalition majority also includes the seat of Amnon Linn who told reporters yesterday that he is seriously considering leaving Likud. On the “credit side,” however, is the fact that the government’s 63-seat majority does not include independent AAK Samuel Flatto-Sharon who usually can be counted on to support the coalition in a vote of confidence. Although depleted, the government’s parliamentary majority is still viable and will remain so unless the National Religious Party decides to bring the Begin regime down. The NRP has 12 Knesset seats.

The reduction of the DM’s small Knesset delegation by two is expected to prompt the NRP to renew its demands that its representation on the Cabinet be pared proportionately. Although it now commands only four votes in the Knesset, the DM holds three portfolios — Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin, Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir and Minister of Social Betterment, Yisrael Katz.

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