Labor Absent from Knesset for No-confidnece Votes, but Shamir Still Supports Unity Government

All but two members of the Labor Party Knesset faction absented themselves from the Knesset Monday evening to avoid voting on five no-confidence motions introduced by leftist parties.

The issue was Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s vote last Wednesday in favor of a bill by the religious parties to pardon the seven members of a Jewish underground still serving prison sentences for acts of violence against Arabs in the West Bank.

Many Laborites made it clear to the party leadership that they would not, under any circumstances, support the government on this matter. The party absented itself en-bloc to head off a possible move by Likud to oust Labor from the unity coalition government for failure to support the government against the five motions.

The two Laborites who participated in the voting were Haim Ramon, who supported the leftwing opposition parties, and Aharon Nahamias, who backed the government.

The motions were easily defeated. Shamir stressed that he did not intend to seek Labor’s removal and hoped the unity government would remain in office. But the parliamentary breakdown of Likud and the religious parties on one side of the issue and Labor and the left on the other strengthened political speculation that the unity government would soon be replaced by a narrowly based coalition headed by one or the other of the two major parties.

Supporters of the no-confidence motions denounced Shamir for voting for and giving his moral support to the pardon bill, which Likud Justice Minister Avraham Sharir had rejected in his official statement for the government last week. Shamir maintained that the Justice Minister spoke for himself, not the government.

He said his vote in favor of pardons reflected his “views and feelings” about the underground members remaining in prison, but did not in any way imply acquiesence to their crimes.

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