The Political Pot is Bubbling

Israel’s political pot is bubbling vigorously these days as the various factions and new movements prepare for the May 17th elections. Reports and rumors abound of new alignments, possible mergers, defections and reconciliations among office-seekers and the strains are already showing.

The Labor Party suffered another jolt yesterday when Dr. Yizrael Katz, former head of the National Insurance Institute, resigned and joined Prof. Yigal Yadin’s new Democratic Movement for Change. Katz, who once headed a special commission set up by Premier Yitzhak Rabin to tackle the problem of children of underprivileged families, delivered a parting shot. He charged that the Labor Party lacks social leadership and said its failure to adopt his commission’s recommendations was a severe disappointment.

Yadin’s group, which seems to be attracting poor urban dwellers, is having internal difficulties of its own. The affiliation with it of Shmuel Tamir, of the Free Center faction, a former constituent of Likud, and Tamir’s colleague, Akiva Noff, troubles some of Yadin’s original supporters who view the move as a shift to the right. They want to balance Tamir by merging with the leftist Civil Rights Party but so far the CRP is ignoring all overtures.

Before joining Yadin’s movement Tamir and Nof announced their resignations from the Knesset. Yadin, who attended a press conference by Tamir, termed the resignations unprecedented in the country’s political life.

SHLOMZION SEEMS BOGGED DOWN

Meanwhile, Gen, Ariel Sharon whose new Shlomzion movement is having difficulty getting off the ground, had a meeting at his Rehovoth home with a key figure of Likud. This gave rise to rumors that the Yom Kippur War hero may re-join Likud which he quit last year to form his own movement. But Sharon denied this and one of his supporters, Prof. Ezra Zohar, said there was little chance that Shlomzion would merge with Likud after the elections.

Stress and strain is evident in the National Religious Party where former Interior Minister Yosef Burg is trying to form an alignment with the NRP’s “young guard” and religious settlement movement headed by former Welfare Minister Zevulun Hammer and Yehuda Ben Meir. If he succeeds it would isolate former Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Rafael. The latter has indicated that if he is given a low spot on the NRP’s election list he would quit the party and run on a list of his own.

Labor, meanwhile, is trying to prevent a similar split by Rabbi Menahem Hacohen who is thinking of running for the Knesset on a separate religious workers list. Both Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres have met with Hacohen to try to convince him to remain in Labor ranks. Labor’s moment of truth will arrive at its convention next month when the party must decide whether to rally under the leadership of Rabin or switch to Peres.

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