JERUSALEM (Nov. 25)
The Likud coalition easily defeated a no-confidence motion by the opposition Labor Alignment in the Knesset yesterday. The 59-50 vote followed a fierce five-hour debate which centered on a two-part article in The New York Times a week ago by Max Frankel, editor of the Times’ editorial page.
Frankel wrote that opposition leaders in Israel, whom he did not identify, were asking the Reagan Administration to reduce U.S. aid to Israel as the only means of toppling Premier Menachem Begin’s government which, according to Frankel’s account of the opposition’s view, was leading Israel to ultimate disaster.
Begin attended the debate, his first appearance in the Knesset since the death of his wife, Aliza, November 14. He did not speak as Labor and Likud MKs hurled the epithets “fascist” and “bolshevik” at each other along with charges of distortion and unpatriotic behavior.
The no-confidence motion was Labor’s response to charges of treason by some government spokesmen based on the Frankel article. But it exposed a rift in Labor ranks between party chairman Shimon Peres and his perennial rival, former Premier Yitzhak Rabin, over the wisdom of introducing the motion. Rabin maintained, in an evening television interview, that while there was cause to rebut Likud slanders, a newspaper article should not serve as the basis for a full-scale parliamentary debate.
Labor focussed its attack on Justice Minister Moshe Nissim who was the first to accuse them of unpatriotic behavior on the basis of the Frankel article. Opposition speakers charged that he spoke out without bothering to check the facts which they said was deplorable conduct on the part of a Justice Minister.
MKS HURL EPITHETS
Peres, along with Labor MKs Yossi Sarid and Mordechai Gur challenged Nissim to prove his charges by quoting any part of the Frankel article that impugned the Labor Alignment. “If the minister fails to prove it, the minister is a liar,” Sarid shouted.
Likud MK Ehud Olmert said he telephoned Frankel after the article appeared to ask him if during his recent visit to Israel, Labor Party leaders had actually told him they favored a cut in American aid. According to Olmert, Frankel replied, “Can you imagine that otherwise I would have written the article?” During the heated exchange, Mopam MK Victor Shemtov called Likud MK Ronni Milo a “fascist” to which Milo shouted back, “you are a bolshevik.”
To many observers here, however, the debate was less important than the apparent revival of the leadership struggle within the Labor Party. The dispute over whether or not it was wise to introduce a no-confidence motion was seen as a pretext by the Rabin faction to challenge Peres’ leadership even before the possibility arises of early elections. Labor apparently believes the Likud government may be seriously damaged by the findings of the commission of inquiry into the west Beirut massacres. (See separate story, P. 1.)