Barak survives no-confidence votes

The Likud motion was defeated by 50-30 with 13 abstentions. The other motions were also easily defeated.

The National Religious Party, a coalition member, decided to abstain to protest the building freeze in Har Gilo, just south of Jerusalem. Knesset member Zevulun Orlev of the National Religious Party said that Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat had obviously called Barak to complain about the building.

Members of Yisrael Ba'Aliyah, which is also a coalition member, abstained. But the party's leader, Interior Minister Natan Sharansky, voted with the government.

Shinui voted against the government on all of the motions.

The Likud motion was one of five no-confidence motions debated Monday. The others were sponsored by the National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu on unemployment; the Arab parties on government policies toward the Arab sector; Shinui on the government intention to adopt the recommendations of the Tal Committee on enlisting fervently religious Jews; and Herut on the promises of Barak to the Palestinians from the Sharm el-Sheik accord.

The motions were the last of the Knesset winter session, which ended yesterday.

Most Knesset members did not speak on the topics of the motions but used their speaking time to give their opinions on the state of the government coalition.

Shinui Party leader Yosef "Tommy" Lapid said Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein's decision to recommend a police investigation into Yosef had provided an opportunity to dismantle "this miserable coalition" and establish one that reflects the outstanding majority of the secular population.

"You are in trouble," Lapid said in an appeal to Barak. "You must now pick up the pieces of your strategy that crumbled apart…in Geneva," noting that Barak had created an unnatural partnership with Shas because of the peace process with Syria.