Highlights of the Year 1983

Premier Menachem Begin continued to maintain control of Israeli government policies during the year 5743. With the exception of some minor changes in the Cabinet, the narrow majority held by the Likud coalition succeeded in defeating challenges to its authority from the Labor Alignment opposition.

But several issues tested the stability of the government. These include the triple digit inflation rate; the four-month doctors’ strike; the near demise of the national airline, El Al; and the continued debate regarding Israel’s involvement in Lebanon and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel lost two leading figures during the year, Aliza Begin and Simcha Erlich, the leader of the Liberal Party. Israel celebrated its 35th anniversary.

INSIDE ISRAEL:

SEPTEMBER 1982 — The Cabinet, after rejecting unconditionally President Reagan’s peace initiative, decides to allocate $18.5 million for the establishment of seven new settlements in the West Bank.

The Knesset, by a vote of 50-40, approves the government’s conduct of the war in Lebanon.

Yitzhak Berman, of Likud’s Liberal Party wing, resigns as Energy Minister, as does Menachem Milson, the head of the civil administration on the West Bank, both over the initial failure of the government to appoint a special commission of inquiry into the Shatila and Sabra refugee camps massacre.

An estimated 400,000 persons protest in Tel Aviv the massacre at Shatila and Sabra and the government’s refusal (at that point) to launch a full independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the massacre.

OCTOBER — The Knesset endorses the government’s foreign policy by a comfortable 56-50 majority, ending two days of debate during which Begin repeats his rejection of the Reagan peace initiative, makes it clear that he will never relinquish the West Bank and Gaza, and excoriates the opposition Labor Alignment for supporting a “Jordanian option.”

Thousands of employes of Israel’s national airline. El Al, shutdown Ben Gurion Airport to protest the Cabinet decision, based on a recommendation from the El Al Board of Governors, to liquidate the airline unless employes agree to far-reaching concessions in labor-management relations.

Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef rules that Bat Mitzvah celebrations (for girls reaching the age of 12) are as valid as Bar Mitzvahs for boys of 13, writing that both celebrations are “Seudat Mitzva, ” religious feasts.

NOVEMBER — Aliza Begin, the wife of Premier Menachem Begin, dies of heart failure at the age of 62. She is buried on the Mount of Olives.

Tens of thousands of people attend the funeral rites in Jerusalem for the Askenazic Chief Rabbi of the city, Rabbi Bezalel Zolti, who dies of a heart attack. He was 63 years old.

The government coalition leadership blocks presentation of the “Who is a Jew” amendment to the Law of Return in the Knesset, averting an immediate crisis over the bitterly controversial issue.

DECEMBER — The Knesset’s Economic Committee is informed by Michael Dekel, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, that the number of Jewish settlers on the West Bank will triple over the next three years, bring the Jewish population in the territory to 75,000.

The 30th World Zionist Congress concludes with no consensus on the issue of government settlement policies in the occupied territories and with inter party wrangling over the composition of the new WZO Executive. Leon Dulzin, who runs unopposed, is unanimously reelected chairman of the WZO Executive, which it is agreed, will be composed of 35 members.

A wave of vandalism and defacement directed at Ashkenazic Jews spreads in Jerusalem after police fatally shoot a 29-year-old Oriental Jew in a clash with residents of Kfar Salameh, a slum neighborhood in the southern part of the city.

Histadrut and the temporary receiver for El Al sign an agreement which includes far-reaching concessions to management, in an effort to save Israel’s national air carrier from liquidation and allow it to eventually resume service.

Israel population at the end of 1982 is 4,055,000. This includes 12,000 residents on the Golan Heights, the first time that they have been counted as part of the total population.

(Continued Tomorrow)

NEXT STORY