Israel’s Labor Party is Running Scared Warning Voters to Shun Likud

With election day less than one week away, Israel’s ruling Labor Party is running scared, despite the latest public opinion poll predicting an overwhelming victory for the Labor lists. Labor is aiming its big guns at the Likud.non-Labor alignment which it is trying to brand as the party of war. Premier Golda Meir’s Labor Alignment is presenting itself to the voters as the party of peace, an image enhanced by the successful opening of the first Arab-Israeli peace talks in 25 years at Geneva last Friday. Labor, on the eve of elections, has unveiled a new platform which, while standing firm on the need for defensible borders, is more doveish than the previous platform on the question of territorial compromise. It is also promising new and younger faces in the next government and Knesset.

The poll, conducted by the respected Institute of Applied Social Research and released over the weekend, gave 50 percent of the decided vote to Labor against 29 percent for Likud. That lopsided result, which should have been heartening to Labor stalwarts, has in fact created a severe case of jitters. For one thing, the poll did not cover voters on active military duty who comprise a fairly large segment of the electorate. For another, it indicated that 40 percent of the voters are still undecided, which, at this date, seems to spell trouble for the party in power.

Other results of the poll raised questions as to the accuracy of its reflection of public sentiment. The National Religious Party, a partner in the present coalition, received only 5 percent compared to about 15 percent it polled in the last elections. The independent list, headed by Mrs. Shulamit Aloni who defected from the Labor Party, was given 4 percent. Moked, a coalition of Communist and extreme left-wing groups headed by Meir Payil, was conceded 2 percent of the vote according to the poll. Political experts believe those results were far too high.

Labor Party chiefs meeting here over the weekend decided that the strategy during the remaining few days before elections should concentrate on warning the voters of what could happen should Likud win. The Laborites stress that a Likud victory would jeopardize the Geneva conference and precipitate a deterioration of relations with the United States. Deputy Premier Yigal Allon was authorized to announce on behalf of Premier Meir that Labor would not participate in a national unity coalition with Likud–meaning that in the event of a Likud victory, the country would face a political stalemate. Alon made that statement at a meeting of Labor Party academicians here Saturday night, a group that had earlier expressed sharp dissatisfaction with the Party’s current leadership. The academicians–professors and lecturers at the various universities–finally announced that they would vote Labor despite their reservations. But they are still demanding the departure of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan from the post-election government.

THERE IS A CHANCE FOR THE RIGHT-WING TO WIN

What apparently brought the intellectuals around was the prospect of a Likud victory. Prof. Eitan Bergles said he would have voted for a different party a few weeks ago but would now vote for those who advance peace. The “war party” image is also apparently scaring off others who might have voted for Likud. David Mosevitz, son of the president of the Israel Manufacturers Association the stronghold of businessmen and industrialists, said Sunday that while he had always “hoped and prayed” for a right-wing victory, “the tragedy today is that when there is a chance for the Right to win, I am obliged to call upon the public to vote for Labor if only because of the danger of a (Menachem) Beigin and (Chaim) Landau regime.” His reference was to the two leaders of the Herut wing of Likud. Dr. Matetyahu Peled, a reserves general and orientologist in civilian life, urged the voters not to waste their ballots on the splinter parties and to make sure the peace forces in the Labor Party gain the upper hand.

The peace–or more accurately the compromise–forces appeared to have the upper hand in Labor ranks at least on the eve of elections. Labor’s new platform incorporated 14 points drafted by the Party leadership several weeks ago which replaces the so-called Galili document. The latter, adopted last spring at the insistence of Defense Minister Dayan,.took a hard line on territorial compromises and advocated expanded settlements in the administered territories. The new document is vague in language but its general tone is one of willingness to compromise in virtually all areas except the unified status of Jerusalem and the need for defensible borders while excluding any return to the pre-June, 1967 lines. Significantly, it was Minister Without Portfolio Israel Galili himself who presented the new platform to the Party leadership for approval. It was adopted without opposition after its various clauses were agreed to by the Mapam wing of the Labor Alignment.

In an election speech to Labor Alignment women here last night, Premier Meir promised that her new Cabinet will include new and younger faces. She said the average age of ministers will be lower than in the present government. She mentioned no names. Likud is also promising new faces. A list of its Knesset candidates published Friday contained many names that are little known outside the party. The Likud position is somewhat ambiguous. It has not come out against Israel’s participation in the Geneva conference. But it stresses that any peace agreement would be worthless without solid grounds of security. Its differences with Labor appear to be over what borders constitute minimal security.

Beigin, addressing a meeting of Likud leaders in Jerusalem Sunday warned that if “the land of

NEXT STORY