Gahal Split Looms over Direct Voting Bill

The Gahal faction, an alignment of Herut and the Liberal Party which forms the major opposition to the Meir government, appears headed for a possible split over the electoral reform bill adopted by the Knesset last week. Herut’s Knesset leader, Menachem Beigin and party chairman Gen. Ezer Weizman both declared today that they would not tolerate Liberal support for the measure which would institute direct balloting for Knesset candidates on the basis of constituencies.

Several Liberal MKs voted with the Labor Party last Wednesday to give the Labor-sponsored bill a bare majority of 61 votes necessary to pass its first reading in the Knesset. The bill was immediately attacked by Herut spokesmen who claimed that it was a Labor Party device to gain an absolute majority, something that has eluded the Party since Israel was formed. The measure envisages a system by which a majority of MKs would be elected directly in regional voting and the remainder selected from national party slates under the proportional representation system that now prevails.

The bill is opposed by Herut, the National Religious Party and most of the smaller factions which would stand to lose Knesset seats or disappear altogether under a system of constituency elections. The Herut central committee has been called to debate the issue next Sunday. Neither Beigin nor Weizman indicated what they would do if their Liberal partners persisted in supporting the measure. Herut MK Yochanan Bader has said the time has come to dissolve the Gahal alignment. Beigin and Weizman both said, however, that they opposed dissolution because Gahal represents “the only path to an alternative government.”

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