JERUSALEM (Mar. 22)
Prof. Ephraim Katchalski, a 57-year-old biophysicist of the Weizmann Institute of Science, was nominated tonight by the Labor Party for the presidency of Israel. He was selected by a vote of 279-221 over his principal rival. Deputy Knesset speaker Yitzhak Navon, in secret balloting at a meeting in Tel Aviv of the Labor Party’s Central Committee and its Knesset faction. Following the balloting, and at the request of Party Secretary General Aharon Yadlin who asked for a demonstration of Party unity, the delegates confirmed their choice by a unanimous show of hands.
As the only candidate, Dr. Katchalski is virtually assured of election when the Knesset meets in special session April 10 to choose a successor to President Zalman Shazar. The Mapam faction of the Labor Alignment has already announced that it will support Dr. Katchalski. The National Religious Party, which had reportedly favored Navon and the Gahal opposition faction which had leaned toward another candidate. Supreme Court Justice Eliahu Mani, are not expected to oppose the Labor Party’s nominee.
Dr. Katchalski received the blessings of Premier Golda Meir who spoke briefly from the rostrum after the voting. She also had warm words for Navon. But the narrowness of the secret ballot–56 percent for Katchalski – 44 percent for Navon–was a source of visible concern to the leadership of the Labor Party’s Mapai faction which had vigorously pressed Dr. Katchalski’s candidacy in recent days.
Dr. Katchalski’s name was placed in nomination by Foreign Minister Abba Eban who portrayed Dr. Katchalski as a scientist -statesman, similar to that of Israel’s first President, the late Dr. Chaim Weizmann. He also noted that as the Israel Army’s chief scientist during the war for independence in 1948 and the Six-Day War in 1967, Dr. Katchalski contributed significantly to Israel’s armed strength.