JERUSALEM (Feb. 16)
Premier Menachem Begin’s coalition handily defeated three non-confidence motions in the Knesset today. The vote was 64-56 against the motions submitted separately by the Labor Alignment, Shinui and the Hadash (Communist) Party demanding that the government resign because of the findings of the commission of inquiry into the Beirut refugee camps massacre.
The heated debate which preceded the voting was one of the rare occasions when all 120 Knesset members were present and in their seats. Former Premier Yitzhak Rabin led off for the opposition Labor Party. He argued that the government should resign because it had ministerial responsibility for the grave faults disclosed by the commission’s report.
The commission examined the government’s conduct during the three days before and during the massacres — September 15-18 — and exposed glaring weaknesses, Rabin said. He added that it was conceivable that the same weaknesses existed throughout the eight months of war in Lebanon.
Responding for the government, Justice Minister Moshe Nissim denied that the commission’s report was a condemnation of the functioning of the entire government. On the contrary, he said, the report brought to light specific faults and recommended specific actions and the Cabinet took them “in good time, bravely, no matter how painful they were.”
Labor MK Mordechai Gur, a former Chief of Staff, charged that Begin bore a share of the responsibility for the internal violence in Israel that followed publication of the report. He said Begin was responsible because of his inflammatory statements and his failure to condemn forcefully the outburst of verbal violence by the government’s supporters.