Netanyahu Faces Hostile Votes in Knesset After Wye Agreement

Days after he signed the latest Israeli-Palestinian accord in Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was facing challenges to his government from both ends of the political spectrum.

Netanyahu easily survived a no-confidence motion submitted Monday by the far- right Moledet Party over The Wye River Memorandum.

The agreement calls for an Israeli redeployment from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank in exchange for specific Palestinian moves to live up to their security commitments.

The motion was defeated by a vote of eight in favor, 21 against and 15 abstentions. A majority of Knesset members, including Netanyahu, did not show up for the vote.

The premier had the support of the Labor Party, which has said it would not topple the government in any measure opposing peace moves with the Palestinians.

But Labor’s decision to provide a safety net did not apply to votes on other issues — including the 1999 budget, which the Knesset is slated to begin debating next week.

Before the no-confidence vote was taken, the premier suffered a defeat when a Knesset committee approved by a vote of 9-7 a bill calling for new Israeli elections.

The bill, which will now go to the full Knesset for a vote, was supported by hard-liners in Netanyahu’s governing coalition, as well as by opposition members seeking to topple the premier.

The chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, Hanan Porat, whose National Religious Party opposes any further Israeli redeployments, said the bill would be put to a vote of the full Knesset in two weeks.

He added that if the bill passed all three votes that are required under Knesset rules, elections could be held as early as March 16.

On Monday, Netanyahu met with his Cabinet ministers to drum up support for the Wye agreement.

The Cabinet was slated to vote on the accord Thursday.

Since returning to Israel on Sunday, Netanyahu has portrayed himself as a tough negotiator who obtained important security concessions from the Palestinians in the Wye accord.

The agreement was “the best we could achieve under the circumstances,” Netanyahu told his ministers.

He termed the redeployment called for in the agreement “painful,” but said the Israeli delegation had “fought like lions” over the redeployments and had insisted on finding ways to ensure Palestinian fulfillment of their commitments.

NEXT STORY