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Labor Party Debate Fizzles Out; Nebulous 14-point Formula Presented

The Labor Party’s great debate–tensely awaited all week as a landmark confrontation between the Party’s hawks and doves over the nation’s foreign and defense policies–fizzled like a wet firecracker this evening. The anti-climactic nature of the event was apparent as soon as it opened in the auditorium of Tel Aviv’s Ohel Theater when Party Secretary General Aharon Yadlin read a 14-point formula contrived to be acceptable to everyone but too vague and nebulous in language to stand as a firm statement of national policy. The document Yadlin presented to the 600-odd members of the Labor Party’s Central Committee assembled in the hall represented the collective efforts of the Party’s feuding leadership–hawks and doves.

A 10-member and hoc committee consisting of the top level leadership labored most of the day to produce it. Most observers agreed that its main purpose–apparently achieved–was to avert a grueling debate that could have rent asunder the Labor Party a little more than a month before elections. The document was not immediately adopted, however. It is expected to be approved when the Central Committee resumes its meeting next Monday. The 14 points have yet to be formulated into a Party platform plank, presumably replacing the Dayan-Galili document that doves and moderates consider too hard line.

The document says that Israel will strive for peace through direct negotiations without preconditions and without pressure from the outside. It stated that a peace agreement must mean an end of all hostility, blockades and boycotts and must provide secure borders that can be defended. Israel will not return to the borders of June 4,1967 but will seek to achieve final, secure borders that will maintain the Jewish character of the State through compromise and negotiation. Referring to Jordan, the policy statement said that there must be only two independent states in former Palestine–Israel with its capital in a united Jerusalem and an Arab state (Jordan-Palestine) in which the Palestinian national identity will be expressed. The document ruled out a separate Palestinian state on the West Bank.

It referred to the scheduled Middle East peace conference in Geneva as a significant event that contains a chance for great changes in Arab-Israeli relations. It said that until peace is achieved, Israel will scrupulously observe any partial agreement which might be arrived at in the course of negotiations–but failing that, it will maintain the present cease-fire positions. The document declared that settlement in the administered areas will be stepped up in accordance with government decisions in the interest of security needs. One of the 14 points expressed appreciation for U.S. aid and a determination to strengthen ties with the U.S. Another called on world Jewry to continue its support of Israel.

Observers here noted that these points contained among them elements of all the main trends of thought within the Party. A source close to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, not too unhappily, “It’s the same all over again, the same compromises, the same open-ended phrases.” The document served to paper over the deep schism between moderates and hard liners that were emphasized in recent days in statements by Dayan and by Foreign Minister Abba Eban, a leader of the moderates. Dayan, who has become the focus of blame for defects in Israel’s preparedness for the Yom Kippur War, is fighting for his political life. He told a group of former Rafi colleagues last night that he had no intention of resigning unless the Judicial committee currently investigating the war found his conduct at fault. He reiterated that unless Israel retains substantial portions of the administered Arab territories, its survival would be in Jeopardy.

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