TEL AVIV (Dec. 18)
Shimon Peres won a resounding victory over Yitzhak Robin at the Labor Party convention here today, confirming him as party leader and its candidate for Prime Minister in next year’s elections. The 2123 delegates who cast ballots for Peres gave him a fraction under 70 percent of the 3026 votes cost against about 28 percent for former Premier Robin, his only challenger.
In his victory speech, Peres urged the party to forget about the contest just ended and unite. and mobilize for the “real challenge — beating Likud. I ask you all to forget 70 percent and 28 percent. We are 100 percent,” Peres declared to thunderous applause. He placed great emphasis on unity within Labor ranks, calling for a “massive majority” in support of its leadership.
The greater the majority, the smaller the danger of “factionalism” in the party, he said “If we are to ask the nation for a clear majority (in the Knesset elections) let us not smash the majority in our own camp.” If a new Labor government hopes to be free of dependence on other parties, it must be free of dependence on internal factions within its own party, Peres said.
This was seen as a pointed warning to Robin’s supporters to close ranks and not attempt to form a separate “camp” within the labor Party’s institutions. Rabin, in a terse statement to the convention, said he “accepts and respects” the decision of the delegates. He reiterated his pledge “that the party will emerge from this convention whole and united.”
But the former Premier was widely criticized by convention delegates for his failure to shake hands with Peres or to mention him — much less congratulate him — in his speech. Peres, in contrast, walked over to Rabin and demonstratively shook his hand before he began his speech
While Peres’ margin of victory exceeded the expectations of his supporters — they would hove considered 65 percent a substantial success — political observers said his 70 percent majority did not constitute a landslide but was solid enough to enable him to exclude Rabin from his future leadership team and from his Cabinet should Labor triumph in the next elections. According to the experts, Peres should refuse point blank to negotiate for power positions with the “Rabin camp” as a camp.
PERES FACES HIS FIRST TEST
The first test of his ability and determination to consolidate his victory will begin tonight when the convention commences the complex and arduous procedure of electing the party’s new 701-member Central Committee, its key policy-making body between conventions. Peres supporters were insisting that the Robin group cannot claim representation in precise proportion to the 28.8 percent of the vote garnered by their man.
Peres’ lieutenants argued that the Kibbutz Hameuchad movement, as a bloc, and other elements of the Rabin camp” would be fairly represented in the Central Committee as individuals or as local groups. But the “Rabin camp” as such must now disband, they said.
Peres’ victory speech and his keynote speech of the convention meeting last night were acknowledged even by his critics to have been among his best. He reviewed his many years of service, to the Labor movement and the government, dwelling especially on his tenure as Defense Minister.
He spoke of Labor’s rejuvenation since its massive electoral defeat at the hands of Likud three years ago. He emphasized his. plans for encouraging “sophisticated science-based industries” in Israel to provide employment for hundreds of thousands of newcomers and veterans one and to reduce the nation’s foreign debts and its dependency on foreign oil.
Robin’s speech was also well received. It was mainly a programmatic review of national policy and notional needs. He dwelt on the merits of the Allon plan, advanced by the late Foreign Minister Yigal Allon as a compromise settlement on the West Bank.