JERUSALEM — Parliament approved a vote of no-confidence today, bringing down the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
In a roll call, 60 Knesset members voted for the no-confidence motion introduced by the Labor Party and 55 voted against the motion. Five parliamentarians were absent during the voting.
It was the first time in Israel's nearly 42-year history that a government had been ousted by a vote of no confidence.
Despite the outcome of the vote, Shamir smiled when greeted by members of his Likud Party. "Well, those are the results. They were no surprise after what has happened over the past several hours," Shamir told Israel Radio. "Life goes on even after disappointment."
Shamir, accused by Labor of being a stumbling block to the Middle East peace process, now heads a caretaker government. President Chaim Herzog must select which political party he believes has the best chance of forming a government--Labor or Likud.
"I have always said that there is a majority in the Knesset for the advancement in the peace process and that was proved tonight," Labor Party leader Shimon Peres said after the vote of no confidence.
Senior Labor Party official Yitzhak Rabin sounded a conciliatory note, saying he would not be disappointed if another Likud-Labor coalition government were formed. But he added: "The government fell for one reason. The Likud was unable to say yes and move forward" with the peace process.
Just one hour before the vote, Shamir and the Labor Party leaders tried to reach a compromise to restore the 15-month-old Likud-Labor coalition that collapsed Tuesday.
But no agreement was reached despite last-minute prodding from Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, the largest religious party faction in Parliament.
The proposed compromise would have provided that Jerusalem was not negotiable and that it would remain united under Israel's rule. It proposed that Shamir return ousted Labor leaders to the ruling coalition and that he agree to a proposal by U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III to start Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Shamir fired Peres on Tuesday, triggering the collapse of the 15-month-old coalition. After Peres' dismissal, all 10 other Labor ministers resigned from the Cabinet.
"Mr. Shamir refused to give a guarantee of a positive answer to Baker," Peres said after meeting with Yosef. "There is no other choice but to go to the Knesset and decide."
Earlier, hecklers berated Shamir as he stood at the front of the Knesset chamber to defend himself against the no-confidence motions. "You will not quiet me," Shamir shouted at the hecklers. "Let me finish talking."
" . . . The enemies are still at the gate. They are far from achieving their goals. The land is still being built, and the way is still long to the settlement of all parts of her."
But in introducing the first no-confidence motion against Shamir, Peres said, "Shamir has one problem, he represents an old fear--fear to move forward toward peace, fear to make peace with Egypt, fear to make peace with Jordan, fear to open a dialogue with the Palestinians."