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Labor Acts to Preserve Unity Government

May 29, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Labor Party, in the interests of preserving the unity government, decided today that it would abstain from voting on motions by two leftist opposition factions in the Knesset to create a special commission of inquiry into the Lebanon war.

The conciliatory gesture by Labor nevertheless drew a warning from Likud that its decision would only heighten tensions between the two major components of the unity government. Coalition chairman Sarah Doron, a Likud Liberal, sent a letter to Premier Shimon Peres today charging that the decision to abstain violated the coalition agreements. Likud apparently would have Labor join it in opposing the motions.

The decision, following a lengthy meeting between the Labor Party Executive and the Labor Knesset faction, amounted to a compromise. Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared it would be unthinkable for Labor to vote against an inquiry. The upshot is that the Labor MKs will vote neither for nor against the measure when it comes up on the Knesset floor, probably tomorrow.

Peres sought to mollify Laborites who favor an inquiry into the war conducted by a Likud-led government. He urged his party to take no stand on the issue in order to preserve the unity government. At the same time he made it clear that he favors an inquiry in principle. However, Peres said, given the pressing problems that face the nation and the government, now is not the time. In effect, he reserved the right to raise the issue at some future date.

Peres was also in a conciliatory mood at a joint meeting of the entire coalition last night. In addition to an inquiry into the war, the burning issue was amnesty for 27 accused members of a Jewish terrorist underground currently on trial or serving sentences for acts of violence against Arab civilians in the West Bank.

Immediate amnesty is demanded by Jewish settlers in the territory, backed by Likud, in light of the controversial prisoner exchange in which 1,150 convicted Palestinian terrorists were freed in return for three Israeli soldiers. Addressing those demands, Peres said all coalition members were united in the desire “not to destroy the judicial system” and in their abhorence of violence, regardless of its source.

Likud, nevertheless, appears to be using the issue to regain lost ground with its rightwing constituency angered by the fact that the Jewish terrorist suspects were arrested when a Likud government, headed by Yitzhak Shamir, was in office. Today, Shamir addressed the wives of the defendants who have been on a hunger strike for the past week. He told them the majority of the nation supports freedom for their accused spouses.

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