JERUSALEM (May. 19)
Premier Menachem Begin’s Likud-led coalition government retained its precarious mandate today when the Knesset voted 58-57 to defeat a Labor-sponsored motion of no-confidence.
Begin’s regime was saved by three abstentions: one by Hanan Porat of the ultra-nationalist Tehiya faction whose two other Knesset members, Geula Cohen and Yuval Neeman, voted with Labor; and the others by the two-member Telem faction. Two Knesset members were absent.
In the long, bitter Knesset debate which preceded the vote, the economic issues on which the no-confidence motion was based were all but forgotten. Likud instead concentrated its fire on MKs Amnon Lin and Yitzhak Peretz whose announced defection from Likud yesterday put the government in jeopardy and made the Labor Alignment the largest single parliamentary faction.
The motion was introduced after figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics earlier in the week showed inflation to be running at a record annual rate of 130 percent. The 10.7 percent rise in the cost-of-living index in April was the highest for that month in 29 years. Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres called on the Knesset to unseat the government because it was ruining the economy.
Today’s motion of no-confidence was the second the Begin government has weathered in two months. On March 23, the Knesset split 58-58 on a motion critical of the government’s policies on the West Bank. Although a tie vote does not require the government to step down, Begin offered to resign at the time but was overruled by his Cabinet. Before today’s vote however, the Premier said he would not resign in the event of a tie.
Begin is generally believed to want early elections, possibly next November, to enlarge Likud’s mandate. But he does not want his government to fall on a no-confidence motion. The economy is expected to remain a major issue. Finance Minister Yoram Aridor, defending his economic policies today, rejected charges that the 10.7 percent cost-of-living increase in April indicated they were failing. He said April traditionally was a month of price increases which Labor tried to exploit.
According to Aridor, business and industry are improving, there is an increase of investments and general economic growth. He also promised that the government would pay a 500 Shekel per month increment to all wage earners who make less than the average income. He said it would do so without waiting for an agreement with Histadrut.
Meanwhile, violence and threats of violence were directed at the two Likud defectors. Peretz was attacked in his Jerusalem hotel last night and Lin reported receiving a number of threatening telephone calls. Police bodyguards were posted at their rooms.