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Knesset to Hold Session, After All

The Knesset will convene next Monday and hold regular sessions for two weeks before adjourning for the High Holidays period. This was decided yesterday by the Knesset’s adhoc arrangements committee following pressure from the acting Speaker, Abba Eban, to call the house into session.

Eban had received requests earlier this week from both the Labor Alignment and Likud not to summon the Knesset into session next Monday in order to avoid a debate on the election of a permanent Speaker while negotiations were continuing between the two major parties on forming a new government.

The arrangements committee decided today to hold a vote on a permanent Speaker on September II, but as there is still no agreement between Labor and Likud on a candidate, that date could yet be postponed. Likud parliamentarians argue strenuously that the Speakership is part and parcel of the overall coalition package — especially in a situation of near equality between the two main parties. Hence it should be resolved together with the other issues surrounding the formation of a new coalition.

On the Labor side, this argument is spumed. But Labor is apparently experiencing difficulty in marshaling a majority behind its preferred candidate for Speaker, Shlomo Hillel. Hadash and the Progressive List have warned they will not vote for him because of his involvement, as Police Minister, in the Land Day tragedy in 1976. (Six Israeli Arabs were shot dead by police during riots in several Galilee villages on April 1, 1976.)

Accordingly, there is now a move afoot in Labor to persuade Eban to accept the nomination, on the assumption that he would win wide support in the Knesset. Eban, however, is very reluctant on the grounds that the Speakership would necessarily fetter him in doing what he does best: speaking and writing on political issues. Eban’s feeling is that if he is not appointed a minister, he would rather be a backbencher-cum-elder-statesman figure, free to express himself as he pleases.

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