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Katchalski Likely to Win Presidency but Navon Supporters Won’t Give Up

Prof. Ephraim Katchalski appeared today to have sufficient support to win the election for President in the Knesset next Tuesday though the race for the highly prestigious but largely ceremonial office is shaping up as the closest in Israel’s history. Labor Party Secretary General Avraham Yadlin rejected today an appeal by supporters of Deputy Knesset Speaker Yitzhak Navon to have the presidential elections postponed for another year.

Navon supporters are still active on behalf of his candidacy although he has formally withdrawn from the race and has urged them to stop campaigning for him. Members of the Public Committee for Navon, meeting with members of the opposition Gahal, State List and Free Center factions, proposed a postponement of the elections on grounds that the atmosphere surrounding the contest “has not brought honor to the State or to the new President.”

The opposition is less against Dr. Katchalski, a Weizmann Institute of Science biophysicist who has never been in politics, than a protest against the alleged high-handed methods used by the Labor Party leadership to defeat Navon. The Navon Committee said it planned demonstrations outside the home of Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir, one of the prime movers behind Katchalski. They also planned to demonstrate at the Knesset. A protest rally planned in Zion Square in downtown Jerusalem was called off when Navon backers failed to get a police permit.

Apart from Navon, who is not officially running, Dr. Katchalski’s rival is Prof. Ephraim Uhrbach, a Hebrew University Talmudic scholar nominated by the National Religious Party. Uhrbach is said to have the support of the Gahal opposition faction as well. But apparently it is not unanimous. Some members of Gahal’s Herut wing oppose Uhrbach over his political views.

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