JERUSALEM (Jan. 26)
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, 74, declared Friday that he intended to seek the Premiership again after the general election next October and had no intention of stepping down. He also had kind words for his potentially chief rival for the top Government post, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. He said he would not consider anyone but Gen. Dayan for the post of Defense Minister and that there was no reason to replace him. Mr. Eshkol held both the Premiership and the defense portfolio until the May, 1967 crisis when he relinquished the latter to Gen. Dayan under popular and political pressure. He said Friday that while he formerly believed that the Prime Minister and Defense Minister should be the same person, he had changed his mind. “The Premiership is a full time job and the defense post requires a special man to fulfill it,” Mr. Eshkol said.
The election will be for seats in the Knesset (Parliament). Under the Israeli system, the party which polls the most votes forms a Government which must win a vote of confidence before taking office. Gen. Dayan, hero of the 1956 Sinai campaign, is credited by many Israelis for the lightning victory in the Six-Day War and is considered to be the most popular political figure in Israel today. Mr. Eshkol and his older colleagues of the Labor Party and former Mapai Party control the political machinery. Many observers have seen a contest looming between the two. The Labor Party, now in political alignment with Mapam, controls 63 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, an absolute majority for one party for the first time in Israel’s history. If it retains that proportion after the October elections it would be able to form Israel’s first non-coalition government. Some Labor Party leaders, however, have recommended retaining a coalition in the interests of national unity.