New Source of Friction in Labor Party

An obviously well-intentioned attempt by a group of Labor Party MKs to encourage Premier Yitzhak Rabin at a time when he has come under severe criticism from within the Labor Alignment appeared yesterday to have created a new source of friction in Labor ranks. Rabin may have been gratified by expressions of support and well wishes from the 14 MKs who visited his Tel Aviv office last Thursday night. But he cannot be pleased by the repercussions of that visit which, according to many observers, only served to underline the precarious position of the Premier in his own party.

The visit was initiated by Ms. Orah Namir who said she felt it was necessary for Laborites to express confidence in the Premier even though many of them disagree with some of the government’s policies. The delegation she recruited for the purpose was hardly a band of unswerving loyalists.

It included veteran Labor leader Yitzhak Ben Aharon, who was a thorn in the side of both former Premier Golda Meir and Rabin. It also included the newest “enfant terrible” of Labor’s Knesset faction, Yossi Sarid who only last week submitted a motion to the Knesset criticizing the government for deporting two West Bank Arab leaders on the eve of registration for the West Bank municipal elections. Ben Aharon, for his part, has demanded an explanation from Rabin for the violence that erupted in Arab towns and villages in Israel last Tuesday–an event for which no Israelis seem to have a satisfactory explanation.

Nevertheless, both-Sarid and Ben Aharon reportedly assured Rabin that their desire to bring these issues into the open did not imply lack of support. They wished him well in continuing to carry out his policies. Ben Aharon was quoted as telling the Premier, “We came here to tell you to be strong. I am convinced that the party has no better people than you to lead the nation. I am sure that the decision to appoint you two years ago was the right one then and is right to this day.”

SKEPTICAL OF PUBLIC SHOW OF SUPPORT

However, yesterday some top level Labor Party leaders expressed criticism of the “support initiative.” They wanted to know, for one thing, who decided who would be invited. Israel Kargman, a veteran of Labor’s Mapai faction suggested that “people will think” that the party members who did not visit Rabin do not support him.

Mordechai Ben Porat of Labor’s Rafi wing, said he was not sorry to be among the uninvited because the meeting was “unimportant.” He said he could understand that Labor MKs would support their party’s leader but wondered why I was necessary for a delegation to visit the Premier simply to express their support. Other party figures were also skeptical of the need for a public demonstration of support for Rabin. Some claimed the participants in the meeting were “very carefully chosen.”

Ms. Namir’s response to the critics was not calculated to enhance Rabin’s prestige as a leader. She was quoted as saying that the Premier was “unjustly” attacked on issues “which every body knew he was not conversant with when he was elected.”

She also observed that when Rabin was elevated to the Premiership “he had little or no” party background and “practically” no parliamentary experience. “But we did vote for him and we believe he is doing pretty well under the circumstances,” she said. One wag observed that with such compliments Rabin’s critics could afford to remain silent.

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