TEL AVIV (Jan. 9)
Defense Minister Shimon Peres has rejected an appeal from former Premier Golda Meir that he drop his efforts to replace Premier Yitzhak Rabin at the head of the Labor Party’s election list. Mrs. Meir, who had invited Peres to meet with her Friday, told him that she feared that an internal struggle might hurt Labor’s prospects in the upcoming election.
But Peres was understood to have told her that he saw no conflict in a legitimate internal struggle for a senior post and efforts to strengthen the Labor Party. He said while, he is aware of dangers to the party, he is convinced that without a change in leadership the party will suffer in the elections. He repeated his contention that with himself at its head Labor could gain seats in the Knesset election.
Peres offered the same argument when he went into Mapam territory last week to address members of Kibbutz Merhavia. “We are liable to be defeated seriously in the elections,” he told them. “For the first time we may face losing Labor’s hegemony on the Histadrut level, on the Zionist level and the State level.” He said he sought to replace Rabin not because of personal ambition but because he was convinced that “if we go to the public as we are today, we are doomed to lose many seats.”
Peres promised that if he were to become the next Premier, he would not form a national unity government embracing all parties. He said a Labor government would seek peace through a step-by-step process and “I shall not change the process for the sake of a national unity coalition.”
Last week Rabin also met with Mapam leaders in an effort to prevent his Alignment partner from defecting before the general elections May 17. He told the faction leaders that he was ready for territorial concessions in all sectors, an issue that is one of the principal sources of Mapam’s dispute with Labor.
The Premier urged Labor and Socialist unity in the forthcoming elections. He warned that polarization in the Labor camp would obscure its differences with the Likud opposition. He spoke of his government’s “significant achievements” in solving Israel’s social and economic problems.
Meanwhile, both Peres and Rabin met with Yaacov Levinson, director general of Bank Hapoalim, in efforts to obtain his support. Rabin reportedly asked him to join his next Cabinet as Finance Minister. Meir Zarmi, secretary general of the Labor Party, announced that he will see to it that the struggle between Peres and Rabin is conducted in a fair and friendly manner.