JERUSALEM (Mar. 20)
Prof. Ephraim Katchalski, 57, a biophysicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, emerged today as a possible candidate for the presidency of Israel. The Russian-born scientist, who is presently visiting the United States, was telephoned by members of a six-man committee of the Labor Party to find out if he would be willing to stand for the office, it was learned today. Prof. Katchalski reportedly deferred his decision for several days but did not turn the offer down.
The Labor Party’s 620-member Central Committee has postponed until Sunday a meeting that had been scheduled for this Thursday at which the six-man committee assigned to select presidential candidates was to present its recommendations. The postponement was called apparently to pave the way for Dr. Katchalski’s candidacy should he decide to accept. His name has been added to what up to now has been a three-man race to succeed President Zalman Shazar. The Knesset will elect Israel’s next President May 25.
The leading candidates up to now have been Knesset Deputy Speaker Yitzhak Navon, Yaacov Tsur, president of the Jewish National Fund and Supreme Court Justice Eliahu Mani. All are possible choices of the ruling. Labor Party and any one of them, if nominated, is virtually assured of election. Prof. Katchalski appeared to be a “dark horse” entry.
But according to some sources, Prof. Katchalski’s prospects appear to be the brightest. He reportedly has the backing of two powerful figures in the Labor Party, Finance Minister Pin has Sapir and Minister-Without-Portfolio Israel Galili. Prof. Katchalski is the brother of the late Prof. Aharon Katzir Katchalsky, another eminent Weizmann Institute scientist who was one of the victims of the Lod Airport massacre last May 30.