JERUSALEM (Mar. 28)
Prof. Ephraim Uhrbach, a Hebrew University Talmudic scholar, emerged today as a possible rival to Prof. Ephraim Katchalski for the presidency of Israel when the Knesset votes to select a new president April 10. Prof. Uhrbach, the apparent choice of the National Religious Party, was reportedly undecided how to respond to NRP urgings that he run. He has received no formal invitation so far but some sources reported that he has been “sounded out” and was not unfavorable to the idea.
NRP leaders who met in the Knesset last night to discuss the possibility of nominating a rival to the Labor Party’s candidate, hinted that the Gahal opposition faction was favorable toward Uhrbach. But the NRP, a coalition partner, was reported to be under heavy pressure from the Labor Party today not to nominate a candidate of its own.
If Uhrbach runs, he is expected to get the support of the two small Orthodox parties, Agudat Israel and Poale Agudat Israel, the State List and the Free Center factions. Along with the NRP and Gahal, this would make him a serious threat to Dr. Katchalski. The outcome might hinge on the small leftist parties which might vote for an NRP candidate if only to protest Labor’s choice. To be elected, a candidate requires 61 votes on the first two ballots or a simple majority on the third ballot.
A weak link in the Uhrbach campaign is the position of the Agudat Israel. An Aguda MK, Shlomo Lorinez told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that while Prof. Uhrbach is an Orthodox Jew, many of his views are an anathema to Agudists. Uhrbach has publicly criticized the Chief Rabbinate and yeshiva heads on the issue of military service for yeshiva students and religious girls.