Begin May Resign, Call for Early Elections if There is Another Narrow Vote of Confidence

Premier Menachem Begin would be inclined to resign and call early elections if his government is once again reduced to a slender majority of three, as happened when it barely survived a no-confidence vote in the Knesset yesterday. This was made clear by a source close to Begin following the 57-54 vote on motions of no-confidence in the government’s economic policies.

The source said Begin would have resigned had the vote been tied, even though there would have been no strict necessity for him to do so. Similarly, he would consider his position untenable if a future no-confidence motion results once again in his government being saved by the tiny breakaway factions, as was the case yesterday. The government was saved, in effect, by the last minute decision of two members of the three member Ahva faction, a split off from the Democratic Movement for Change, not to vote against the government, and a similar move by independent Knesseter Shmuel Flatto-Sharon.

There were recriminations after the vote in coalition ranks after the vote against the failure of the coalition whips in recent weeks to woo the Ahva members. Coalition sources said today there would be on assiduous effort to “talk to” Ahva and make certain it voted with the government in any future test of strength.

The Ahva faction comprises three distinct personalities: insurance millionaire Shlomo Eliahu, who voted against the government; Showfiq Assad, who at the very last minute mysteriously absented himself from the Knesset chamber; and Akiva Nof, who decided at the last minute to abstain. Eliahu, Ahva’s chairman, said today he had no explanation for Assad’s behavior, after the three faction members decided unanimously to vote against the government.

If former Defense Minister Ezer Weizman is ousted from Herut as a result of his vote against the government yesterday, one more Knesset vote will have to be counted against the coalition whenever the chance arises to force its resignation and trigger early elections.

The Herut Secretariate, meeting in Tel Aviv today, decided to give Weizman a hearing before taking action. He will appear before it next week. Sentiment at the meeting was overwhelmingly against Weizman and it appears that his days are numbered as a member of Herut. But anything can happen, observers pointed out.

LABOR PARTY SEEKING TO TOPPLE BEGIN

Meanwhile, the Labor Party opposition is preparing to topple Begin’s government. Shimon Peres, the party’s leader, said today that it is urgent to bring Israel “back under proper economic management.” He stated that “we intend to introduce a planned economy, an economy where work is as profitable as speculation.” Peres added that, for his own part, he will do everything in his power to build on yesterday’s relative success by harassing the government with no-confidence motions at every opportunity.

Some observers believe that next month’s inflation figures, expected to be as high as this month’s because the oil price hike will make itself felt, would present an appropriate basis for the opposition to try again.

DAYAN WARNS AGAINST LOSS OF OPTIONS

During yesterday’s debate in the Knesset, former Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, who is now an independent MK, said “I will vote no-confidence because one cannot vote confidence in 200 percent inflation.” This was a reference to unofficial forecasts that the inflation rate for the final quarter of 1980 is expected to be around 200 percent.

Dayan said that as long as the economic situation is not improved there is no point in discussing the “autonomy option” or the “Jordanian option” in the West Bank autonomy settlement because “we will not have an option for any option. We will have to do what others tell us to do.”

Finance Minister Yigal Hurwitz, who has been under severe attack by the Labor opposition, members of his own Likud Knesset faction and Cabinet ministers for failing to stem inflation, said during the debate, “I have only one formula: that we live with what we have, and that we consume only that which we can produce.” He blamed Israel’s economic woes on Labor’s “overblown unproductive services.”

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