Non-confidence Motion Against Eshkol Government Defeated in Knesset
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Non-confidence Motion Against Eshkol Government Defeated in Knesset

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With the full backing of all the parties that are members of the Government coalition, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s Government today by a vote of 62-41 overrode a motion in the Knesset (Parliament) that would have expressed lack of confidence in the Government.

The line-up against the Government was the most complete mustered during the present regime by the opposition parties. The voting came on a motion submitted by Rafi, the Israel Workers Party led by former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, and Gahal, the fusion of Herut and Liberal Parties. However all the other opposition parties, including the pro-Israel Communist Party, the “new Communists, Agudath Israel and Haolem Hazeh stated their lack of confidence separately.

All the opposition members criticized the Government for the economic crisis at home and for the alleged lowering of Israel’s prestige abroad. However, the coalition partners backed the Government solidly, and the single no confidence motion, presented by Rafi and Gahal, fell through after an address by Mr. Eshkol.

“This Government,” Mr. Eshkol told Parliament, “has been shouldering burdens which none of the preceding governments dared lift.” The Premier alluded to the possibility of renewed Jewish immigration from abroad “coming shortly, not only from countries of affluence.” The Government, he stated, “enjoys the continued support of Jewry abroad,” and has proved its intimate contacts with Jewish leaders around the world.


Unemployment in Israel, the Prime Minister maintained, was much lower than the figures mentioned by the opposition. Even the figures on registrations of persons as unemployed were wrong, he said, because these figures include people living on income as well as students who do not look for work.

Criticizing those who attack Israel, “at home or abroad,” Mr. Eshkol took the opportunity to announce that the two editors of the weekly magazine Bul, recently sentenced to one-year prison terms for endangering the state’s security, will be freed from jail just before Passover, which starts April 24. They had previously been scheduled for release in connection with Israel Independence Day, to be celebrated this year on May 15.

The men, he said, will be released earlier because the Cabinet does not want to ignore petitions from abroad, where the impression had been created that the imprisonment of the men was an infringement on freedom of expression. The men, he said, had in reality undermined confidence in the State on the whole, and not only in the Government.


Mr. Eshkol refuted references in the Israeli press which had intimated that the Government conducts secret trials. The editors of Bul, he said, and all others in prison are there after due process of law. In the Bul case, Mr. Eshkol noted, the ban on publishing reports about the arrests, trial and convictions had been imposed by the judge, who belongs to an independent judiciary which is not subject to Government orders.

Turning to the case of Jon Kimche, the dismissed editor of The Jewish Observer and Middle East Review, of London, Mr. Eshkol charged that the publication had printed material influenced by a member of Rafi “with whom Kimche is friendly.” He was believed to have referred to Shimon Peres, the former deputy defense minister who is one of the Rafi leaders.

Mr. Eshkol said that an article by Mr. Kimche not only asked for the resignation of Minister of Justice Yaacov Shapiro, but “cast suspicion on the integrity of the entire administration of justice in Israel.” He also said that Mr. Kimche’s article on unemployment in Israel was the cause for his dismissal because it contained a veiled call for dis- continuation of efforts toward Jewish emigration to Israel from Britain at the very time when appeals for emigration to Israel were being made in England.


Arie Ben-Eliezer, of Herut, who made the motion for Gahal, told the Knesset that the severe economic crisis had followed “artificial affluence.” He put the number of unemployed at 75,000 to 100,000. He decried the Government’s “extreme nervousness” as manifested in the Bul and Kimche cases.

On behalf of Rafi, Gen. Moshe Dayan told the Knesset that there was no way for the opposition to put through a non-confidence motion that would topple the Government without “a crisis inside the coalition.” However, he said, the purpose of the non-confidence motion, which Rafi supported, was to give Parliament the opportunity to examine what the Government has done or failed to do.

In that context, he declared, the Bul and Kimche cases were secondary affairs, “although no Israel Government should ever tell Jews abroad to keep out of Israeli affairs.” “On the contrary,” he stated, “our aim should be to increase the engagement and the commitment of Diaspora Jews in Israeli matters.”

The Government’s principal “unfulfilled promise,” said Gen. Dayan, was its pledge that the economic recession would not cause large-scale unemployment. He said that emigration from Israel of professionals and university graduates has increased, manpower employed in industry has decreased, while manpower in services has risen. He asked whether these shifts had met the Government’s promises of shifting manpower to productive work.

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