Tiny Free Center Faction Trying to Form Broad Opposition Front

Shmuel Tamir leader of the tiny Free Center Party, has put out cautious feelers toward other Knesset groups and political figures with a view to forming a centrist nationalist bloc to oppose the Labor Party in next October’s national election. The faction, which has two Knesset seats, opened its national convention last night.

Tamir said in his keynote speech that he has given up hope of any possible link with “what was once the opposition in this country” meaning Herut. He urged instead that other non-Socialist, nationalist-oriented factions join with his “to strengthen the real opposition.”

Tamir’s bid was aimed at the State List, a three-man faction that is all that remains of former Premier David Ben-Gurion’s Rafl faction which broke away from Mapai years ago. But he was also clearly addressing individuals of other parties. Gen. Ezer Weizmann, former chairman of Herut who recently fell from grace in a contest of strength with party leader Menachem Beigin occupied a front-row seat at the Free Center convention. Tamir is also believed to seek a link with Dr. Avner Sciaky who quit the National Religious Party last month to sit in the Knesset as an independent.

Tamir and his supporters are believed to nurture the hope that they can persuade Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and his followers to break away from the Labor Party. Dayan suffered a major defeat yesterday when the Cabinet upheld the ban on Jewish land purchases in the administered territories. Dayan is the foremost advocate of free land purchases and had been making speeches all over the country in recent weeks upholding that position.

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