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Shamir Asks for Cabinet Calm, As Economic Issues Pressing

Premier Yitzhak Shamir moved Tuesday to avert a breakdown of the Labor-Likud unity coalition government, telling a meeting of leaders of the coalition Knesset factions that the government must be preserved to deal with urgent economic matters.

The latest rift occurred Monday when all but two Labor Party MKs absented themselves from the Knesset because they could not, as a matter of principle, support the government against five no-confidence motions introduced by leftist opposition parties.

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

The no-confidence motions were easily defeated. Of the two Labor MKs who voted, one of them, Haim Ramon, opposed the government. Rafi Edri, chairman of the Labor Knesset faction, told Shamir that disciplinary action would be taken against him.

While Labor has been careful to avoid a coalition crisis by voting against the government in which it is a partner, demands are mounting in the Labor camp to end the coalition by other means. Laborite Minister of Immigration Yaacov Tsur called for early elections Tuesday. The Labor Party newspaper Davar declared that the unity coalition exists “only on paper.”

The meeting with Shamir was attended by Edri and Haim Kaufman, chairman of the Likud Knesset faction. The Prime Minister urged both political camps to cool their tempers.

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