TEL AVIV (Jun. 6)
The podium was physically hurled at a television crew during a raucous session of the Histadrut national convention here last night which heard a ranking government official Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Zipori, denounce the Histadrut as a “Mafia” that protected “parasites”–later retracted — and Defense Minister Ezer Weizman take a hard line on the settlements issue and attack American policy.
Weizman, widely regarded as a moderating influence in the Likud government, has been under attack by Herut die-hards for allegedly opposing their credo of massive Jewish colonization of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. But last night he effectively mended his fences on that issue and predicted that while the autonomy negotiations with Egypt will be very difficult the U.S. would pose the greatest obstacle to success.
Interrupted by hecklers when he began his unscheduled speech, Weizman drew enthusiastic applause when he said he favored settlements in all parts of the West Bank and Gaza not only for security reasons but “to live up to Zionist ideals He said that while he personally opposed the expropriation of privately owned Arab lands for settlement purposes, he would carry out any decisions of the Cabinet.
“We shall have problems with the Egyptians but it will be the Americans that will be the most difficult partner in the autonomy negotiations,” Weizman said. He accused the U.S. of being the only party to the peace agreement not to have modified its stance in any way and to have adjusted its attitude to “the new reality.” Weizman said, “I often tell my American colleagues that while (President Anwar) Sadat agreed to recognize Israel and we agreed to make considerable territorial compromises, the Americans are still talking about the 1967 frontiers with minor adjustments, just as they did years ago, as if nothing new has happened.”
A general free-for-all broke out at the opening of the session when supporters of Herut firebrand Geula Cohen attacked Premier Menachem Begin for not being tough enough in the peace negotiations. Begin loyalists tried to rush the speaker but the Premier himself stopped them and defended the right of his critics to criticize. At that point, a television crew, moving in to film the near scuffle, had to duck as the podium flew through the air aimed at them.
ANGER OVER ATTACK ON HISTADRUT
Many of the delegates were taken aback however, by the vitriolic attack unleashed by. Zipori against Histadrut. They listened approvingly when Zipori charged that Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres was ready to “sign away” parts of the West Bank, to “sign a death sentence on this country” in order to regain office. But his blast at Histadrut drew angry reactions from Herut workers who are themselves members of the labor federation. Histadrut, Zipori said, is protecting “parasites” Because of Histadrut, “there are tens of thousands (of workers) who are not productive even for one hour but one cannot dismiss them because the entire set-up is backing them. We have failed in our encounter with Histadrut.” he said. “Histadrut,” Zipori said, “has become the largest Mafla in the world.”
That attack drew a prompt rejoinder from Histadrut Secretary General Yeruham Meshel. “Such words are not said even at a national convention,” Meshel declared in a statement issued last night. “We thought such words have long been obsolete.” Workers committees all over the country also expressed abhorrence and the Haifa Labor Council announced that it would have no further contact with Zipori.
This morning, the defense aide issued a “correction.” What he meant to say, he claimed was that “an important factor as Histadrut is it has become an organization which provides backing for people who don’t move a finger.
Weizman submitted to questions from the delegates He was asked what Israel would do if the Egyptians repudiated the peace treaty He replied in that case, the Israel Army would enter Sinai for a fourth time But he added that he was convinced the Egyptians are genuinely interested in peace. He stressed the advantage of having a secure flank to the south should Israel become involved in a war with the Arab rejectionist states on the east.
Questioned about his reported differences with Begin, the Defense Minister said he was satisfied that in a democratic regime he could quarrel with the Premier. But once a decision is made he will abide by it, Weizman said. He predicted a long struggle with the terrorists. “This battle has just begun It will not be fought conventionally,” he said.