JERUSALEM (Jun. 14)
A Likud MK who lost a son and a brother in the Lebanon war began a hunger strike in front of the Prime Ministers residence today. He said he was protesting against antiwar demonstrators who have been appearing there daily for the past seven weeks holding up signs with the latest Israeli casualty figures in Lebanon.
The MK, Meir Cohen-Avidor, denounced the protestors for using the “blood of fallen soldiers” for political purposes. His action reflected angry exchanges in the Knesset today where Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir charged the opposition with responsibility for Israeli deaths in Lebanon and infuriated Labor Alignment MKs demanded an apology and made countercharges of their own.
A debate on the conduct of the war in Lebanon is on the Knesset agenda for tomorrow. But the issue of making political capital out of casualties exploded in the chamber this morning. Israel army fatalities in Lebanon reached the 500 mark over the weekend, with more than 2,700 soldiers wounded since the war began a year ago.
Shamir charged that the opposition’s persistent criticism of the government’s performance in Lebanon was responsible because it signaled Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization that Israel was losing its resolve. Because of this “slander,” he said, “Syria and other Arab countries will say to themselves that Israel will soon collapse and withdraw unconditionally from Lebanon so why bother to reach an agreement with her?”
LABOR REPLIES TO SHAMIR ATTACK
Victor Shem-Tov of Mapam accused Shamir of “verbal hooliganism” to silence critics of the government’s failure in Lebanon. Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres said Labor did not blame the government for the casualties but held it responsible for waging a war that deviated from the national consensus.
Labor Party Secretary General Haim Bar-Lev told Shamir, “Your comments were an incitement to violence and you should take them back.” MK Michael Bar-Zohar dubbed Shamir “The minister of incitement.”
But Shamir stood fast, charging the opposition with using the Lebanon issue because the political situation has improved as a result of the government’s actions. Likud’s Ronni Milo accused the Alignment of “breaking the spirit of the people” and asked the Laborites how they would like it if the families of fallen soldiers in the Yom Kippur War demonstrated in front of their homes.
Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Menachem Savidor said he would ask the House to refrain from involving the fallen soldiers in the political debate when it opens tomorrow.