Behind the Headlines Winners, Losers and Issues

With election day just six days off, political analysts here have drown the profile of the next Knesset–the ninth–based on the latest public opinion polls and a close study of previous election returns. The consensus is that the new Knesset will consist of two major parties, two medium-sized parties and several small or splinter factions.

It will be a younger Knesset. The average age of its members is expected to drop from the early 50s to the middle 40s. Many well-known veterans will be gone and new faces will abound. There are expected to be 50-60 new MKs; including many people who never served in parliament before. Only 20-25 will be able to claim Knesset membership prior to 1973.

It will be closely divided on the issue of peace with the Arabs and territorial concessions and the split will not be entirely along party lines. The next Knesset therefore will be hard put to ensure political stability in the crucial months and years ahead, the analysts say.

STRENGTH OF PARTIES ASSESSED

With respect to party strength, the Labor Alignment and Likud are expected to account for 80 seats between them, about two-thirds the total membership of 120. Some analysts believe a Labor-Likud coalition cannot be ruled out. According to the results of a poll published in Yediot Achronot this week, the Labor Alignment will emerge from the May 17 elections with 39-40. seats compared to 50 it holds in the present Knesset. Likud is expected to win 35-36 seats compared to 39 now.

Some analysts see the National Religious Party (NRP) and Prof. Yigal Yadin’s Democratic Movement for Change (DESH) winning 20 seats between them. The Yediot Achronot poll gives DESH 15 seats (it is not represented in the outgoing Knesset) and the NRP nine, a loss of one seat for the religious party. The ultra-Orthodox Aguda bloc is expected by some to win six seats, one more than it has at present. The Yediot poll gives it five seats in the next Knesset.

The pro-Moscow Rakah Communist Party, which is running a joint list with leftist Arab factions, is given six seats by some pollsters and eight by Yediot Achronot. Rakah has four seats in the present Knesset and the Arab leftists three.

Yediot Achronot gives Gen. Ariel Sharon’s new Shlomzion list two seats; the leftist Shelli two, a gain of one; the Independent Liberal Party two, a loss of two; and the Civil Rights Party one, a loss of two. According to that poll, all the other splinter factions will poll no more than 1.3 percent of the vote between them. Put another way, 16 factions will be competing for only eight seats left after the major parties and some of the stranger small factions are accounted for. About a dozen will fall by the wayside.

SOME VETERANS WILL BE GONE

Some of Israel’s best-known political personalities will be gone from the Knesset after election day. These include such influential personages as Israel Galili, Minister-Without-Portfolio in the present government and in the government of former Premier Golda Meir; Knesset Speaker Israel Yeshayahu; Israel Kargman, chairman of the Knesset’s finance committee; Yosef Almogi, former Labor Minister and presently chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives; and Ari Ankorion, chairman of the Knesset house committee.

Also leaving, from the ranks of Labor, will be former Histadrut chief Yitzhak Ben Aharon; Labor Minister Moshe Baram; Alignment whip Moshe Wertman; former Information Minister and army intelligence chief Gen. Aharon Yariv; and former Transport Minister Moshe Carmel. Some of these people dropped out of the Knesset race voluntarily or switched to other parties. Some were unceremoniously dumped.

The Likud Knesset faction will be without its veteran parliamentarian Dr. Yohanan Bader; Liberal Party leader Dr. Elimelech Rimalt and Shneur-Zalman Abramov, the influential lawyer and chairman of the Israel-America Friendship Association. Haim Landau, loyal lieutenant of Herut leader Menachem Beigin has dropped out of the race as has Abraham Shechterman, Israel’s representative to the Council of Europe.

The NRP ousted former Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Raphael and the Independent Liberals are running without their veteran leader Moshe Kol who is not standing for re-election.

Who will replace the veterans? The various party-lists indicate that the new generation of MKs will be comprised mainly of relatively unknown politicians who gained power through various party activities on the local level. Most of them do not possess professional credentials relative to their expected activity in the Knesset. They are not economists, lawyers, agriculturalists or specialists in any particular field.

ISSUES IN THE CAMPAIGN

Although the territorial issue generates the hottest emotions, the number one issue of concern to Israelis is inflation, which was number one in the December, 1973 elections. That was the finding of Hanoch Smith, a prominent election analyst and former director of the Manpower Planning Authority in the Labor Ministry.

Smith, who heads an economic and statistical consulting firm, also found that corruption in high places which ranked 15th in 1973 is now fourth among the major issues and strikes, which ranked second four years ago has dropped to ninth place despite the recent labor strife in Israel.

In 1973, right after the Yom Kippur War, Israelis ranked peace with the Arabs as only ninth among the election issues. Today it is second only to inflation. According to Smith, “Inflation remains the most mentioned issue, but its relative importance has declined very substantially since 1973. This is, perhaps, a bit surprising because the rate of inflation has increased rapidly since 1973,” he said.

He suggested that the public has learned to live with galloping inflation and built-in mechanisms such as cost-of-living allowances and social welfare payments ease the burden. He believes that Israelis similarly have learned to live with disruptive strikes.

Smith also believes that the Labor Alignment and its traditional coalition partners, the ILP and NRP are not likely to win a majority of Knesset seats between them. Therefore, the balance of power in the next government may be held by DESH, he says. He also found that Shimon Peres, the new leader of the Labor Party, is the most popular minister in the present government.

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