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Liberal Party Restructures Itself; Moves Closer to Herut View

The Liberal Party took a sharp shift to the right at its fifth convention which ended here Friday morning with a new leadership structure dominated by Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai. Modai emerged as chairman of the Presidium, a newly created post which has become the party’s power base.

Veteran leader Simcha Ehrlich, a Deputy Prime Minister, retained the party chairmanship but that office has been stripped of all authoritative functions. Minister-Without-Portfolio Moshe Nissim was elected chairman of the Executive, a post of less authority than Modai’s.

Along with the reshuffling of personalities, the convention adopted a series of resolutions which indicated that the Liberal position on key political issues has moved closer to those of its Herut partner in Likud. The Liberals decided to recommend that the government impose Israeli law on the Golan Heights, a move viewed by some as being tantamount to annexation.

They reaffirmed the right of Jews to settle anywhere in “Eretz Israel,” and that more settlements would be established upon decisions of the government. They rejected the view that settlements in the occupied territories undermine the peace process and declared their support of the government’s position on autonomy, homely, that it be limited to administrative functions and not form the infrastructure of a future Palestinian state. The party also supported the government’s position that Israel must retain exclusive control of security in the autonomous territories. Significantly, the convention decided that there was no need for early elections and that Likud’s integrity must be safeguarded while the Liberal Party’s role is strengthened.

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