TEL AVIV (Jun. 22)
The Labor Alignment retained control of Histadrut and most local Labor Councils in Israel in yesterday’s elections. According to returns that were still incomplete this morning, Labor appeared to have won up to 54 percent of the vote, a drop of about four percentage points from the previous election but more than adequate to ensure its hegemony of Israel’s giant trade union federation.
Likud scored about 30 percent, an impressive gain of seven percent but a disappointment to its leadership which had hoped to wrest control of Histadrut away from Labor. Prof. Yigael Yadin’s Democratic Movement for Change did poorly, emerging with about seven percent of the votes in what was its first contest in a Histadrut election.
The smaller factions sustained losses. The Communists won about two percent, down a half percentage point from the last elections; the Independent Liberals dropped to barely one percent from six percent although they shared a list with the Civil Rights Movement. The leftist Sheli faction also polled about one percent, down from the three percent it won in the last elections as Moked. The Religious Workers list fell from four to two percent. The Hillel Seidel group, the Yemenite List, the Independent List and the Black Panthers all failed to score the minimum number of votes to qualify for representation in Histadrut.
LABOR LEADERS CELEBRATE
Labor, ousted from governmental power in the May 17 elections, had its first cause for jubilation as the returns began to come in during the early hours of this morning. Party leader Shimon Peres, sharing champagne toasts with his cheering colleagues at party headquarters here, declared that the Alignment would firmly oppose Likud attempts to shift Israel away from its planned economy to one oriented toward private enterprise and a reduced role for government. Yeruham Meshel, the Secretary General of Histadrut who was Labor’s candidate for re-election, declared that the trade union federation would remain independent under his leadership and would not shy away from a confrontation with the Likud-led government if necessary.
But Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich, Likud’s number two man, was confident that the new regime could cooperate with Histadrut. He said Likud could come to terms with Meshel more easily than it could have with former Labor Party Finance Minister Yehoshua Rabinowitz. But most observers believe that Ehrlich now faces an up-hill fight to implement his declared policy of fighting inflation through controlled unemployment and other conservative economic programs. Former Premier Golda Meir, all smiles last night after weeks of strenuous campaigning for Labor, observed, “Begin told us the other night that we have a wise people. Tonight he saw for himself how very wise they are.”
ARABS SUPPORT LABOR
The outcome of the Histadrut elections have both limited and broad ramifications. A significant factor was the Communists’ failure for the first time, to gamer a large Arab vote. Israel’s Arab population went heavily for the Labor Alignment. The DMC’s weak showing deprived it of the balance-of-power role it sought. Within Histadrut, Labor need not make concessions to the DMC whose position on economic issues is not far from that of Likud.
According to some observers, this improved the chances of the DMC joining the Likud-led coalition. They said that Yadin could offer Begin an alliance in Histadrut in exchange for foreign policy concessions that would open the way to DMC participation in the government.
Some circles suggested that the event of a Labor controlled Histadrut and a Likud-led government would serve to temper the policies of both parties creating a healthier environment than would have existed if a single party headed both institutions. However, there was no question but that Likud’s overall political situation would have been greatly strengthened at home and abroad had it triumphed in the Histadrut voting.
Labor did very well in the voting for local Labor Councils and will control all of them with the exception of Ashkelon and Beth Shemesh where Likud was leading. Labor and Likud emerged neck-and-neck in Jerusalem, each polling about 40 percent in the Labor Council vote. There, the DMC with 10 percent, may prove to be the decisive factor.