Jerusalem (Mar. 11)
— A bill to annex the Golan Heights was defeated by a vote of 45-14 with five abstentions in the Knesset today. But 56 MKs, mostly from opposition factions, absented themselves to avoid voting on a measure to which they objected but did not want to oppose openly. Shimon Peres, chairman of the Labor Party, was among the absentees.
The bill was introduced by the ultra-nationalist Tehiya faction. It was opposed by the government, not on principle but because, according to Justice Minister Moshe Nissim, it was ill-timed. Nissim accused the two-member Tehiya faction of weakening Israel’s efforts to convince the world of its need to retain the Golan Heights by introducing a measure it knew was doomed to defeat.
Premier Menachem Begin and Deputy Premiers Yigael Yadin and Simcha Ehrlich were the first to oppose the bill in the roll call vote. Most coalition MKs followed their lead. But agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon flouted party discipline and cast a vote for it, as did Moshe Arens, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee. Likud’s Herut faction called a caucus meeting for later today to decide whether to take any action against Sharon.
The bill was submitted by Moshe Shamir of Tehiya who warned that it was the “last chance” to annex the Golan Heights before the present Knesset is dissolved to stand for election.