JERUSALEM (Jul. 27)
The Rabin government comfortably survived its first test in the Knesset, defeating a series of no-confidence motions by a vote of 59 to 48.
With the survival of the governments a foregone conclusion, interest during the voting on Monday centered around the vote of the United Torah Judaism party.
The three of its four members who belong to Agudath Yisrael absented themselves from the vote, even though one of the motions had been presented by their fourth colleague, Rabbi Avraham Ravitz. Ravitz was acting on the orders of the Degel HaTorah sage, Rabbi Eliezer Schach.
Political observers said the vote signaled the effective split of United Torah Judaism into its constituent parties, Agudah and Degel.
It also indicated the severe weakening of Schach’s authority as the primary political leader of the haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, community. His loss of influence over Agudah comes after the Sephardi Shas party, which he had helped found, joined the Labor coalition against his express orders.
The motions in the Knesset dwelt mainly on the government’s announced cuts in housing in the administered territories.
Moshe Katsav of the Likud charged that the United States had “helped Labor get elected and now you’re paying them back.”
Rafael Eitan of Tsomet, which despite Labor’s efforts did not join the coalition, said Rabin’s distinction between “political” and “security” settlements was meaningless.
Every settlement built in Israel since the beginning of the state was political, he said.
On behalf of the National Religious Party, Hanan Porat asserted that the Jewish settlement drive was “unstoppable” and added that this government would go down in history as a shame to the nation for having tried to stop it.
Ravitz of United Torah Judaism dwelt on the appointment of Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni as minister of education. He quoted copiously from her public statements to prove her abiding contempt for religious tradition. Aloni’s ministerial post is at the center of Schach’s opposition to the Labor government.
Finally, Rehavam Ze’evi of Moledet charged the Rabin government with “surrendering to terrorists” in its handling of a standoff with Palestinian students at A-Najah University last week.
In response, Rabin lashed out at the Likud for criticizing him for favoring “land for peace.” Likud, he said, had been the party “that returned every grain of sand in Sinai” in return for peace with Egypt. The premier noted that many thousands of homes would continue to be built in the territories — mainly because he could not prevent them.