Likud Government Survives Motion of No-confidence by Only Two Votes

Israel’s government barely survived a challenge on the Knesset floor Monday, as a no-confidence motion introduced by the Labor Party was defeated 53-51, with two abstentions.

The two-vote margin was unexpectedly slim and a severe embarrassment to the Likud government, which relies on a shaky 62-58 parliamentary majority to rule.

The Labor Party motion was initiated to challenge the government’s handling of the Temple Mount riots two weeks ago and the recent deterioration of relations with the United States.

The government nearly came to grief when four members of the Orthodox Agudat Yisrael party, whose votes floor managers apparently had relied upon, did not cast them as expected.

Agudah has remained outside the government but is reportedly close to joining the Likud regime.

Nevertheless, Agudah’s Moshe Feldman and Menahem Porush voted against the government. Shmuel Halpert abstained, while another member was out sick.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s regime was rescued by another Orthodox party, Shas, which had threatened to bolt the coalition but decided over the weekend to support it.

Four of the five Shas members cast their votes for the government despite anger over the continuing police investigation of their colleague, Interior Minister Arye Deri, for alleged financial improprieties. The fifth, Arieh Gamliel, absented himself.

The far-right Moledet party split its two votes. Rehavam Ze’evi voted against the government when his name was called, while his colleague, Yair Sprinzak, whose name came later in the roll call, abstained.

It was Moledet’s intention to punish the coalition but not bring about its downfall. Moledet, which would expel all Arabs from the administered territories, considers Likud’s policies too soft.

Several other no-confidence motions submitted by left-wing factions were defeated by wide margins.

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