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Knesset Election Campaign Approaches Climax; Calm Prevails

The national elections in Israel, which are to take place next Tuesday, reached a high point today when Premier Ben-Gurion, as well as top leaders of other political parties, started an intensive effort to win over the voters for their lists of candidates by making personal visits to various parts of the country, covering hundreds of miles.

Premier Ben-Gurion, speaking for his Mapai Party, and Yigal Allon, Achdut Avodah leader, competed today with each other in speeches in a number of settlements, while Herut leader Menahem Beigin similarly addressed several meetings in various places. The principal speakers of each party are now making two or three major speeches each day.

Premier Ben-Gurion began his itinerary today with visits to slum quarters of this city. Following disturbances by outsiders, who broke up meetings in the rural Lachish area, Mapai today called another meeting there with former Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan as the main speaker. While the various parties and their workers are working day and night turning out leaflets and other election material, most citizens seem indifferent to the situation.

An inquiry group of the Central Election Committee today expressed the opinion that an Israel army officer, whose name was withheld, was unfit for duty with the Army’s Military Government section. The investigation disclosed that the officer, who represented the military government in an Arab village, had threatened one of the Arab elders of the village with exile if he would not withdraw his candidacy from an election list for the Knesset.

Contributing to the calm atmosphere which marks the election campaign is the fact that there are no major issues in this election as compared with the Knesset elections of 1951 and 1955. The security issue which was furiously debated during the 1955 elections is practically non-existent at present, since quiet prevails on the Israel-Arab frontiers and the Arab provocations which irritated the Israel population in the elections four years ago ceased after the Sinai campaign.

Similarly the economic situation in the country is today incomparably better than it was four years ago. Economic progress is noted in all fields although there are still thousands of newcomers who have not been fully absorbed. With the absence of other major issues, the Mapai, supported partly by the General Zionists, is hammering on the issue of changing the present electoral system to a two-party system similar to the one in the United States. At present 19 parties are represented in the Knesset which has 120 seats.

All kinds of predictions on the outcome of the elections are now being offered, but the prevailing opinion is that the Mapai will again win as it did in the previous elections. The slogans of the 24 parties which have put up election lists for seats in the Knesset have no stimulating effect on the average Israeli who knows in advance for whom he is going to vote. Most of the people attending the election meetings came to see the leading speakers rather than because of interest in what they have to say.

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