TEL AVIV (May. 18)
Likud hailed its apparent election victory as “an historic turning point in the annals of the Jewish nation and the Zionist movement.” Those were the words of its leader, Menachem Beigin as he addressed thousands of supporters, red-eyed and nearly hysterical with joy, who besieged the party headquarters here at 3:30 a.m. this morning.
The early projections of a Likud upset victory with 41 seats in the next Knesset over the Labor Alignment which was pared down to 33 seats, were confirmed by that hour. Throngs poured into the normally empty pre-dawn streets, shouting, dancing, embracing and chanting “Am Israel Chai.” Beigin, 64, and only recently recovered from a heart attack, was up to the occasion. For him, as he said, it was the dream of a lifetime come true.
Beigin leads the Herut wing of Likud, an opposition alignment formed with the Liberal Party and other smaller factions in 1973 after the Yom Kippur War. Herut is the political heir of the Revisionist or New Zionist Movement, founded by Vladimir Jabotinsky at the 17th World Zionist Congress 46 years ago.
Beigin referred several times to Jabotinsky, a fiery militant in his day. He freely acknowledged that the victory of Jabotinsky’s disciples in yesterday’s voting was achieved through an alliance with the disciples of such Zionist giants as the late Chaim Weizmann, who was apolitical, Menahem Ussishkin, a Labor Zionist, and the late American Zionist leader Abba Hillel Silver, whose political following in Israel today is represented by the Liberal Party.
CALLS FOR NATIONAL UNITY
Beigin, a spell-binding orator and shrewd politician, read a passage from Lincoln’s second inaugural address–”With malice toward none”–intimating that Likud bore no grudges and sought only national unity. In fact, Beigin’s first political statement after his victory was a call for a national unity government embracing all factions. “I shall ask the Likud Executive meeting this morning to ask all Zionist parties loyal to the State of Israel to form a national unity government,” he said.
On peace negotiations, Beigin stated: “I hope that after we get the Knesset’s confirmation of the new government we shall present to it, we shall be able to call on President (Anwar) Sadat (of Egypt), President (Hafez) Assad (of Syria) and King Hussein (of Jordan) to open negotiations, whether in the respective capitals or on neutral ground like Geneva.”
Beigin told newsmen at a pre-dawn press conference that he would accept with pleasure an invitation from President Carter to visit Washington should he be designated Premier as expected. “I do not know of any negative attitude on the part of the U.S. to my becoming Premier,” he said, adding “I shall prepare myself well prior to going to the U.S.” He said he thought there was a wide range of common interests between America and Israel, specifically, checking Communist expansion in the Middle East. He dismissed past allegations by his opponents that Likud had acted as if it wanted to create a split between Israel and Washington.
Beigin said that he has arranged with Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, who has been acting as Premier since April 22, to meet with him in a few days to brief him on the political and security situation. He said this would facilitate a smooth transition of power from Labor to Likud. Beigin spoke frankly of his recent illness. He said his doctors assured him that he was fit for his normal work. “I shall be a healthy Premier and I hope I shall also be a healer,” he said.