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9 Tammuz 5760 - July 12, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Barak Loses Confidence Vote

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Prime Minister Ehud Barak lost a no-confidence vote but under current rules the government did not fall because there was not an absolute majority of 61. The Knesset vote of 54 to 52 with seven abstentions allows the government to continue. The five members of UTJ did not participate in the vote.

Prime Minister Barak left for Camp David without a majority in the Knesset and with the future of his administration in the balance. With has familiar arrogance, he commented. "It was childish behavior that we saw today," a relieved but obviously annoyed Barak said after the vote. "The government did not fall, and I am continuing onward to Camp David."

Despite his not having the support of the Knesset, Barak claimed that he is empowered directly by a majority of the people who want a chance to attain peace. "I am not going alone, I am taking two million voters with me," Barak said, in an address that was also a campaign speech. "The moment of truth is upon us. Just a year ago the public gave us a mandate to lead, not to protect what exists, but to change the reality to its core and to assure the future of Israel."

The prime minister was constantly heckled by right-wing opponents as he addressed the plenum during a debate on two no-confidence motions brought by parties aimed at toppling him.

Barak repeated pledges he has made before: that he would not agree to Israel's withdrawing to pre-June 1967 borders, that a united Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty, and that Israel would "not take moral or legal responsibility" for Palestinian refugees who wish to return home. He also pledged that there would be no foreign army west of the Jordan River and that a large majority of settlers in Judea and Samaria would remain in blocs under Israeli sovereignty.

Supporting Barak in the vote were MKs from One Israel, Meretz, the Center Party, the Democratic Choice, nine of ten MKs from the Arab parties, and one of two Am Echad MKs, Amir Peretz of the Histadrut.

Voting no confidence were the Likud, Shas, the National Religious Party, Yisrael Ba'aliya, National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu, Herut, and Am Echad MK Chaim Katz.

Shinui's six MKs abstained and MK Azmi Bishara (Balad) also abstained to protest what he called Barak's "nos" for an agreement with the Palestinians.

Likud leader Ariel Sharon charged that Barak said when he was first elected that he wanted to be "everyone's prime minister" but instead within only a year he has become almost "nobody's prime minister."

Barak is leading a "dangerous, irreversible process of handing over almost all of Israel's assets for free, and without concluding the conflict with the Arab world," Sharon added.

In America, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned that a failure to make hard decisions at the Camp David summit could lead to an eruption of violence in the region.

The summit, which is expected to last eight days, seeks to bridge wide gaps between the two sides, which have set a September 13 deadline for a final peace accord settling issues including the future of Jerusalem, the status and borders of Palestinian areas, and the treatment of Palestinian refugees.

On Monday two sets of negotiators held preparatory talks in Washington. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat met with Israeli negotiator Oded Eran on interim issues including the third redeployment, and final-status negotiators Ahmed Qurie and Shlomo Ben-Ami held separate discussions in the evening.

A senior US official commented, "Barak's coalition problems at home weaken him and this worries us. However, we are hopeful that progress can be made and believe reaching an agreement is possible."

Reacting to Barak's fragile coalition situation at home, Clinton told reporters at the White House yesterday that Israeli polls show Barak has a "solid majority" of support for his peace moves and that the Israeli people will ultimately decide whether to embrace a peace deal with the Palestinians. Israeli observers noted that a majority does support Barak in the latest poll, but it has fallen sharply in the past month. At the beginning of June, almost 70 percent of those queried favored the summit, but on the eve of Barak's departure it was only 55 percent.

In a poll published Sunday by the Yediot Acharonot daily, 52 percent of Israelis said Barak should go to the summit, while 45 percent said he should stay home.

US officials are keeping silent on potential bridging proposals that could help close the gaps on the contentious issues of Jerusalem, refugees, and borders. But officials as high as Clinton have acknowledged that the US will be expected to foot a large part of any bill that will accompany a deal.

Clinton has said he wants to produce an agreement that addresses all of the core issues. But he has also suggested something much less: that the sides will be beginning to draw the "contours" of an agreement. Barak has said very little about what he wants from the Palestinians, and has only declared certain concessions that he will not make. The Palestinians have announced that they are not interested in another declaration of principles that does not solve anything. They say that general principles were already agreed to six years ago in Oslo.

Settlers from the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza started a hunger strike outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem under the slogan, "Barak is losing the country." A mass prayer vigil was to be held at the Kosel on Tuesday evening.

The pro-government camp, however, also planned to mobilize under the slogans, "Go in Peace and Return with Peace," and "The Majority Wants Peace," at a rally at Jerusalem's France Square.

Left wing activists plan several activities in the coming days, including a vigil at Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv under the slogan, "We Continue on Rabin's Path," and holding vigils along highways.

Mass rallies are also to be held by both sides at Kikar Rabin: the Left on Saturday night and the Right on Sunday evening.

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