TEL AVIV (Sep. 20)
The first election test, following the extensive reshuffling of Israel’s political ranks during the past few months, culminated today in a sharp setback for Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s Mapai-Achdut Avoda alignment, which polled 50;5 percent in preliminary results of yesterday’s elections to the Histadrut, Israel’s labor federation. Final results of the balloting, in which only about 70 percent of the eligible Histadrut electorate went to the polls, were not expected to be known until tomorrow.
Former Premier David Ben-Gurion’s Israel Workers List, Rafi, polled only 13 percent of the votes, somewhat less than the results anticipated by the faction that broke away from Mapai. In the last Histadrut elections, in 1959, the two labor factions, which ran separately as Mapai (before Rafi was born) and Achdut Avoda, carried 72 percent of the vote, compared with a total of only 63.5 percent in yesterday’s voting.
The Herut-Liberal (Ganal) Joint list, which brought Herut into the Histadrut elections for the first time, emerged as the second largest political force, with 17,5 percent of the Histadrut votes. The Independent Liberals, the Liberal faction that refused to join with Herut, polled 4,7 percent of the votes.
Mapam’s proportion of the Histadrut electorate declined to 13 percent in yesterday’s balloting, from the 14 percent polled by the party in 1959. An even sharper relative decline was shown by the two Communist factions, which together polled 1.9 percent of the votes, compared with the 2.8 percent they totaled as one party in the elections six years ago.
SHIFT IN KNESSET CAMPAIGN SEEN; ‘GAHAL’ MAY BE REAL COMPETITOR
The results of the Histadrut balloting are expected to alter considerably the nature of the campaigning by the various parties for the Knesset (Parliament) elections, to be held November 2. The Herut-Liberal Joint list, Gahal, is now expected to be the Mapai-Achdut Avoda alignment’s main competitor in the Knesset election campaign. Observers also predicted that projected reforms within the labor federation would be accelerated as a result of the shift in party strengths.
In commenting on the preliminary tabulations today, Reuven Barkatt, secretary of Mapai, and Israel Galili, secretary of its alignment partner, Achdut Avoda, said that “Rafi did not succeed in breaking the alignment, and the alignment will continue as the main central power in the Histadrut.” Asserting that the results would have to be given further study, the two leaders also stressed that “Gahal’s penetration into Histadrut alarms every worker.”
Menachem Beigin, leader of Herut, said that “the results are the turning point for us. Now we will do our best to ensure a change in the Knesset elections.” Shimon Peres and Yosef Almogi, leaders of Ben-Gurion’s Rafi, said the results were “an achievement” for their party, considering the fact that they had only two months to prepare and organize their campaign. They said the party hoped to double its strength in the Knesset elections.
The Histadrut election results underscored the fact that the main strength of Israel’s Communist factions was among the Arab population. While both Communist groups polled less than 2 percent throughout the country, their combined total in the Arab areas was almost 20 percent of the votes, nearly all of these going to the pro-Arab New Communist faction.