Knesset Rejects Labor Motion for Unilateral 2-stage Pullout from Lebanon by 55-47 Vote

The Knesset voted 55-47 today to reject a Labor Alignment motion calling for a unilateral two-stage withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon. There were three abstentions. But two members of Likud’s Liberal Party wing, Yitzhak Berman and Dror Seigerman, voted with the opposition.

The Labor proposal called for the pull-back of Israeli forces from its present lines in the dangerous Shouf maountain region now and complete withdrawal from Lebanon within the next few months, regardless of whether Syria refuses to withdraw its own forces from Lebanon.

Speaking for the government, Defense Minister Moshe Arens warned that Syrian and Palestine Liberation Organization forces would swiftly move into whatever territory the Israel army evacuates. Labor-Party chairman Shimon Peres suggested that this could be prevented by posting the multinational force, now in Beirut, in the Shouf mountains.

At the same session of the Knesset, government spokesmen angrily denounced a recent suggestion by Labor Party Secretary General Haim Bar Lev that the Golan Heights could be the subject for territorial compromise with Syria. Israel captured the territory in 1967 and annexed it in 1981.

GOLAN NOT NEGOTIABLE

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir said the proposal was “a tactical error as well as bad policy” because it gave the Syrians yet another reason not to withdraw from Lebanon. At the same time, Shamir closed off all talk of territorial compromise on the Golan Heights as far as the government is concerned by declaring that the Golan is part of the State of Israel. The Knesset must make it clear, he said that Israel is not ready to consider territorial compromise there.

The issue was raised yesterday in the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee by Likud MK Ehud Olmert, triggering a sharp exchange between coalition and opposition members of the committee. Olmert contended that such suggestions were especially harmful while the U.S. was trying to persuade Syria to get out of Lebanon. Laborites retorted that it was a Likud government which returned Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace.

Bar Lev, a former Chief of Staff, who is a member of the committee, said he made the proposal at a private gathering where he was unaware that a reporter was present. He noted that the possibility of territorial compromise on the Golan was contained in the Labor Party platform. Committee chairman Eliahu Ben-Elissar of Likud rejected all motions for a committee debate on the subject. A Knesset motion on Bar Lev’s proposal was referred to committee by Likud MK Ronni Milo.

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