JERUSALEM (Feb. 25)
A crisis in the Israel Cabinet was averted today when members of the coalition government succeeded in formulating a compromise resolution on the Gaza-Akaba issue acceptable to all groups represented in the Cabinet. The resolution was submitted tonight to Parliament by Premier David Ben Gurion who wound up the debate on the conditions under which Israel is willing to withdraw its troops from the Gaza and Akaba areas.
The compromise resolution, agreed upon by leaders of all factions, expresses support of continued negotiations by the government with the United States and the United Nations in the spirit of the resolution adopted by Parliament on January 23. That resolution asked for guarantees of free passage of Israel ships through the Gulf of Akaba and the maintenance of Israeli civil administration in Gaza.
The compromise resolution also provides that the recommendations Premier Ben Gurion made tonight on the Caza-Akaba issue be submitted to the Parliamentary Committee of Foreign Affairs and Security. The Mapam and Achdut Avodah, leftist groups in the coalition government, originally sought to bind the government to the January 23 resolution, but today’s compromise permits the government a modicum of flexibility. The compromise was reached after a warning from Premier Ben Gurion that he would consider abstention by his coalition partners in a vote on the resolution as a vote of confidence forcing the resignation, of his Cabinet.
BEN GURION REVEALS NEW STAND ON GAZA AND AKABA; GETS 72-29 VOTE
The resolution was adopted by a vote of 72 to 29 at the close of the debate in Parliament. Premier Ben Gurion, winding up the debate, reiterated his government’s demands for guarantees on freedom of passage through the Gulf of Akaba. He listed alternatives: either United Nations Emergency Force occupation of the Strait of Tiran; or a declaration of freedom of navigation by Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia; or a declaration by the United States or other powers that they would not permit interference with the right of free passage through the Akaba waterway.
Then he told the House: “If we obtained recognition from the United Nations or the great powers of the right to defend our shipping we would regard this as an adequate guarantee, too.” He noted that the Israel army’s objective in taking Sharm el Sheikh was never territorial acquisition, but the securing of Israel’s freedom of navigation. He stressed that to Israel the use of the port of Elath was far more important than the future of the Gaza Strip.
On Gaza, he expressed agreement with the proposal of Canada that a UN commission be sent to make an on-the-spot investigation of the situation in the territory. He assert that Israel had neither the right nor the desire to close the door to such a proposal, a expressed confidence that Israel’s proposals would be found most appropriate for the wellfare of the inhabitants of the Strip, the refugees and Israel.
Mr. Ben Gurion told questioners that his government “does not woo sanctions” although he expressed fear that they would be imposed. He denied a charge by Herut deputy Jacob Meridor that there was no difference between Israel and the U.S. on the Akaba question.