Labor Party Rejects International Pressure for Withdrawal

The Labor Party convention gave all-out support to the government’s position on peace negotiations and then adjourned well past midnight with the 1,000 weary delegates rising to sing Hatikvah. The convention was the first time since the Mapai, Rafi and Achdut Avodah factions merged two years ago to establish a united labor front. But despite differences that still exist among the three, the convention displayed remarkable unity, especially on the crucial question of the hour, the future boundaries of the State. The government’s position was expounded by Israel Galili, Minister-Without-Portfolio, who is a close associate of Premier Golda Meir. Galili’s political speech at the convention’s closing session last night was a strongly worded rejection of international pressure from any source aimed at forcing Israel to accept anything less than what it considers its minimum security borders. Galili adhered so faithfully to the government’s line that Mrs. Meir cancelled her own address because of the lateness of the hour and because almost everything she planned to say had been said by Galili.

The Minister, who more and more seems to be the foreign policy spokesman for Mrs. Meir’s so-called “inner circle” acknowledged the danger of renewed warfare with Egypt and said that in such an event Israel would be subjected to the most severe pressure it has ever known from friendly nations to make concessions. But, he said, Israel will never accept solutions that are not solutions or substitutes for peace that are not peace. Galili said that inasmuch as Israel has already rejected the June 4, 1967 boundaries as a basis for a peace settlement, there was no need for the government to draw “maps.” He said he was glad of this because the drawing of maps would only have led to “fights among ourselves.” He said Israel was prepared to continue with the Jarring talks and was ready to begin separate talks on reopening the Suez Canal. But, he added, Israel will never retreat from the canal which he called “an excellent water obstacle.” He said “no one would think of providing the Egyptians and Russians with the means of reaching El Arish (25 miles from Israel’s borders) from where they could attack Israel from superior strategic positions.”

Galili said Israel’s doctrine was to preserve the cease-fire while negotiating for secure, defensible borders recognized by formal peace agreements. He warned that Israel “cannot close its eyes to the unprecedented airlift from Russia which unloads in Egypt new war materiel the contents of which we do not know.” The serious external situation appeared to mute differences within Labor Party ranks and there was virtually no dissent throughout the four-day convention. A new central committee was elected in which Mapai, with 69 percent of the members will play the dominant role. Rafi with 18 percent and Achdut Avodah with 13 percent offered no objections. The central committee was expanded from 500 to 600 members to avoid clashes between the various branches. It will meet shortly to elect a secretary general and the present incumbent, Aryeh Eliav, appears almost certain to retain the post. But he will preside alone. Deputy secretary-generals representing Rafi and Achdut Avodah were abolished.

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