JERUSALEM (Jan. 25)
The government coalition tonight defeated three opposition non-confidence motions on the economy by a vote of 62-56. There was one abstention.
The vote followed eight hours of tense debate during which Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres charged that the Likud government had mismanaged the economy for seven years resulting in a doubling of the poor, an increase in the national debt from 30 billion to three trillion Shekels and an annual inflation rate that rose from 30 percent to over 190 percent in 1983.
Finance Minister Yigal Cohen-Orgad, replying for the government, conceded that the economy is in trouble. “But this is because we fried to provide services to support everyone,” he said. He maintained that social benefits should have been restricted to the truly needy.
A TOUCH OF IRONY
His remarks had a touch of irony inasmuch as Cohen-Orgad had only just reached an agreement with the Tami Party committing the government to increased welfare expenditures at a time of drastic budget-cutting. The negotiations with Tami, going on for days, ended just before the Knesset voted. The small coalition partner which controls the Labor and Welfare Ministry had threatened to withhold its support for the government unless the Treasury acceded to its demands.
In the event, Tami’s three votes were not necessary to prevent a government defeat although they gave Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s coalition a more comfortable margin. Tami gained Cohen-Orgad’s commitment to increase child care allowances, raise the income tax threshhold for poor families, and present a minimum wage law to the Knesset. Only yesterday, the Finance Minister had warned that the cost of Tami’s demands would cancel out the proposed cuts in the Welfare Ministry budget.
Former Finace Minister Yigael Hurwitz accused Tami of blackmail and abstained on the non-confidence motions as a gesture of protest. Tami leader Aharon Abu Hatzeira rejected the charge. He said Tami has “a platform and policy and we owe it to our voters–the poor — to implement it. “The party represents a low income, largely Sephardic constituency.
Although the Shamir government overcame its latest challenge, there are signs of instability within Likud. Two members of its Liberal Party wing, Yitzhak Berman and Dror Seigerman, announced today that they would not run for re-election on the Likud ticket. They are said to be trying to establish a new liberal-center faction.