JERUSALEM (Jan. 14)
The government defeated five non-confidence motions in the Knesset Wednesday over the new economic plan approved by the Cabinet Tuesday. But it remained locked in dispute with Histadrut over a proposed $30 million cut in subsidies to the Kupat Holim (sick-fund) which was excised from the Health Ministry’s budget.
The imbroglio forced postponement of the ceremonial signing of the economic plan by the government, Histadrut and the Association of Manufacturers and Employers. It had been scheduled for Tuesday night.
Talks continued throughout Wednesday between Finance Minister Moshe Nissim, the heads of the Treasury’s budget department, and Yisrael Kessar, Secretary General of Histadrut. They are expected to continue through the night and possibly all day Thursday.
The labor federation has dug in its heels against the subsidy cut. Kupat Holim, which provides comprehensive health care benefits, is a major inducement for Israelis to join Histadrut.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry is conducting its own battle against cuts in the education budget. Members of the Histadrut Teachers Association, mainly elementary and junior high-school teachers, staged a one-day strike Thursday against the cuts and the education tax which is another feature of the new economic program. Classes were held for only the first two grades.
PLAN UNDER FIRE FROM RIGHT AND LEFT PARTIES
During the Knesset debate, the government’s plan was attacked by both the left and rightwing parties. Yair Tsaban of Mapam, pointing to Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, the Vice Premier and Foreign Minister, who is a strong supporter of the economic plan, declared, “You will go down as the man who organized the counter-revolution against social security in Israel.”
Rafael Eitan of the Tehiya Party charged that the coalition government encouraged “destructive apathy” among the public. He said Israelis have no confidence in the government and have lost hope for the future.
Shulamit Aloni of the Citizens Rights Movement (CRM) attacked the devaluation of the Shekel, a major feature of the economic plan. She said it was part and parcel of the government’s skewed priorities.
Matityahu Peled of the Progressive List noted that the military’s refusal of cuts in the defense budget was accepted by the government while it slashed the budgets for health, education and housing.
Communist Party leader Meir Vilner assailed Histadrut for “helping cut off the legs of the workers.” He added that the government “wants to cut off their arms as well.”
Nissim, replying for the government, was repeatedly heckled by Yaacov Shamai, who heads the Likud faction in Histadrut. When a hand vote was taken on the non-confidence motions, both Shamai and Histadrut chief Kessar were absent from the chamber.