JERUSALEM (Jul. 21)
Premier Menachem Begin’s coalition mustered its Knesset majority today to defeat a Labor Alignment motion critical of the government. The 52-46 vote came after Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres read a long bill of particulars against the Likud-led government. Begin responded in general terms, accusing the opposition of narrow political motives at a time when all Israelis should close ranks.
Peres compared Likud promises with actualities, concentrating on the prolonged Israeli presence in Lebanon. “When Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon fall in the north,” the war in Lebanon has not brought “peace for Galilee” which the government claimed was its purpose, Peres said. He was referring to the two Kaytusha rockets that hit western Galilee last night causing slight damage but no casualties.
He quoted Begin as admitting that no one imagined the war in Lebanon would continue for so long. “Did you imagine there would be a war at all?” Peres asked. “Only a few years ago, at the time of the peace treaty with Egypt, you promised that there would be no more war,” he reminded Begin.
LIST OF PARTICULARS
Peres read a list of resolutions adopted at a conference of Begin’s Herut party before the treaty with Egypt, which promised that Israel would retain half of Sinai, that the then 35 percent annual inflation rate would be reduced and that Jewish and non-Jewish investors would be summoned for a conference in Israel to promote investments.
Instead, Peres said, inflation is soaring — it is now running well over 100 percent — the national debt is rising, industry and agriculture are “hanging by their finger tips” and because of the government’s economic policy there is no immigration.
Peres also questioned Begin’s unexpected cancellation of his meeting with President Reagan due to take place in Washington next week. “Have we nothing about which to talk to the Americans?” he asked. He said the Prime Minister’s Office’s explanation that the cancellation was for “personal reasons” only raised speculation about Begin’s health.
BEGIN PRESENTS HIS RESPONSE
Begin, responding, said: “I admit that we have difficult times. Whereas in times of troubles the people of Israel used to close their ranks, the opposition painted the gloomiest picture out of narrow motives of a self interested opposition.” He conceded that there were gaps between expectations and realities but observed that this has always been true, even when the Laborites headed the government.
As for Lebanon, Begin reminded Peres that his fellow Laborite and rival, Yitzhak Rabin, has said that if policies advoted by Peres were implemented, there would be war with Syria. Peres has called for a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon regardless of what Syria does.