JERUSALEM (May. 16)
President Ephraim Katzir urged all eligible voters to participate in tomorrow’s Knesset elections. Do not give up this “most sublime expression of democracy in Israel,” Katzir declared in a statement released last night as the election campaign neared its end. Election day is a national holiday.
There are 2,236,293 eligible and the government is making every effort to ensure the largest possible turnout. The country’s 3380 polling stations in 17 election regions will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow. The state will provide free transportation to voters who live more than 11 miles from the nearest polling station and the various political factions will offer free rides to their supporters. A fleet of buses chartered by the United Arab List affiliated with the Labor Alignment will carry hundreds of Bedouins from isolated areas to vote.
An identity card is all that is needed to cast a ballot, provided that the voter has registered and is on the official list. The Interior Ministry has been working overtime to supply identity cards to thousands of applicants still without them.
THE LAST DEBATE
According to the pollsters, 8-10 percent of the electorate were undecided on the eve of election day. Last night’s television debate between Shimon Peres, leader of the Labor Alignment and Likud leader Menachem Beigin is not believed to have changed anyone’s mind. The debate was characterized by observers as gentlemanly, dull, platitudinous, and generally unenlightening.
The contenders reiterated their familiar positions on peace, the territories and Israel’s economic and social problems. Peres appeared a bit tense, rarely cracked a smile and made his points in a brief, matter-of-fact style. Beigin, looking rested after his recent heart attack but thinner and older, was in a more jovial mood and seemed to delight in referring to his rival as “my friend Shimon.”
A good deal of the debate revolved around Israel’s relations with the U.S. Peres claimed they could not be better and upheld the Alignment’s policy of territorial concessions in exchange for genuine peace with the Arabs. He warned that Washington would not understand a Likud-style Israeli policy. Beigin, for his part, expressed concern over recent remarks by President Carter and implied that the Labor-led government was to blame because it didn’t know how to present Israel’s position to the Americans.