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Mapai, Rafi, Achdut Avodah Vote to Merge into United Party; Conventions to Approve Move

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The long-sought creation of a strong, unified labor party in Israel seemed today very close to materializing as the 300-member central committee of the Mapai Party approved a plan for merging Mapai with two of the other major labor parties in Israel. Achdut Avodah and Rafi. Since the executive bodies of the latter two parties had already decided to accept the merger plans, only national conventions by each of the three parties, scheduled to be held within a month, remain before final ratification of the move. In view of the fact that the respective leaderships had endorsed the plans, it was believed certain that the conventions would do likewise.

The leadership of Achdut Avodah, which has a parliamentary alignment now with Mapai, and the leaders of Rafi voted over the weekend in favor of the merger plans submitted by Mapai’s secretariat. When the merger goes through, the unified party will control a majority of the Knesset (Parliament) membership, with a total of 55 of the body’s 120 seats.

A three-man committee, including one representative each from Mapai, Achdut Avodah and Rafi, is already at work on concrete measures for unification that would go into effect after the three separate, national conventions. The new united party will include two members of the present Cabinet — Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Labor Minister Yigal Allon — who have been boosted as possible successors to the Premiership now held by Levi Eshkol.

At the meeting of the Rafi leadership, former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who formed the group in opposition to Mr. Eshkol’s rule, abstained in the voting on the merger plans. He maintained that too much attention was being paid to internal political affairs, insisting that the country’s two major problems of immediate concern were increased Jewish immigration and the situation in unified Jerusalem.

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