TEL AVIV (Aug. 18)
The Rafi faction voted 39-6 against splitting away from the Labor Party in secret balloting here last night. The vote came after Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, leader of Rafi, urged party unity In view of Israel’s “grave political and military situation.”
Gen. Dayan said the agreement hammered out with Labor Party leaders over the weekend on policies in the occupied territories was acceptable to Rafi and that the faction achieved organizational gains. Gen. Dayan will retain the portfolio of Defense Minister in the new government to be formed after the October elections and an additional cabinet post will be awarded to Rafi. It probably will be filled by Shimon Peres, a former Deputy Defense Minister, who was Rafi secretary-general before its merger with Mapai and Achdut Avodah to form the Labor Party early this year.
Not all Rafi members were satisfied. In addition to the six votes cast for a split there were six abstentions. Some members claimed the agreement with the party leaders was a “trap” to silence Rafi and a few said they would resign from the party and would not vote for it in the elections. But a majority was apparently convinced by Gen. Dayan’s assertion that the Labor Party offered the “best prospects” for solving the numerous problems facing Israel. Gen. Dayan had praise for Premier Golda Meir’s handling of her job, though he added wryly, “there can be a better Premier just as there can be a better Defense Minister.” He made it clear that he would not head a new list should Rafi break away from the Labor Party and present its own candidates for election. In any event, he said, as matters now stand with the political issues settled and Rafi representation arranged, there can be no question of splitting.
PERES SAYS NATIONAL INTERESTS REQUIRE PARTY UNITY
Mr. Peres said in his address that he thought Rafi could win more Knesset seats with a separate list than the nine allotted it by agreement with the Labor Party leaders. Nevertheless, he said, the present situation is not the time for a split and national interests are best served by party unity.
The Labor Party’s secretary-general, Pinhas Sapir, said today that he was pleased with the outcome of the Rafi vote. “There are no victors and no losers, only the party emerged victorious,” he said.
Unity was achieved on the basis of a compromise between the views of Gen. Dayan, a strong advocate of rapid Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, and those of Foreign Minister Abba Eban who argued for a slower approach that would not create the impression that Israel was annexing the territories. The party’s platform plank on which the agreement was based, called on the government to decide on the “permanent” establishment of settlements in the occupied areas according to “security requirements.” On that basis, numerous new settlements have risen already in the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley and parts of Sinai.
The concept of “permanent” settlements was a concession to Gen. Dayan and the qualification on “security requirements” was a gesture toward Mr. Eban. But use of the term “permanent” in the platform may bring trouble with Mapam, the left-wing faction that has entered into political alignment with the Labor Party. Mapam is opposed to the “hard line” of Gen. Dayan and does not entirely agree with Mr. Eban. The faction may abstain from voting on the controversial platform plank. But if it votes against it, the entire agreement could be in jeopardy.