JERUSALEM (May. 20)
The prospect of early elections increased today in the aftermath of yesterday’s narrow defeat of a Labor-sponsored no-confidence motion in the Likud-led government. Premier Menachem Begin, whose fragile coalition survived by a single vote, is said to be convinced that early elections, probably in November, would return Likud to office with a decisive Knesset majority. Most Likud circles seem to agree.
The opposition Labor Alignment, which has come within a hair’s breadth of toppling the Begin regime several times during the past year is also reported to favor new elections as the only way to return to power.
The tiny leftwing Shinui faction announced today that it would introduce a motion next Monday to hold Knesset elections simultaneously with the municipal elections scheduled for next November. Shinui said this would be a test of how earnest the two parties are about going to the polls. Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres said his party would support the motion.
But Labor is in serious disarray. Leaders of Mapam, Labor’s partner in the Alignment, warned today that they would not accept hard line policy concessions to accommodate the two hawkish Likud defectors, Amnon Lin and Yitzhak Peretz, who are being ardently wooed to join the Labor bloc. At the same time, hawkish elements within the Labor Party have renewed their demands to end the partnership with Mapam. They would also like to get rid of MKs Yossi Sarid, Shulamith Aloni and other Labor doves.
Mapam leaders made it clear that a sharp swing to the right by Labor would make it impossible for them to participate in the Alignment. Later in the day, the Labor Party’s central bureau voted 39-5 in favor of an agreement to bring Lin and Peretz into the Labor fold. The party Secretariate ratified the agreement by a 20-1 vote.
FEARS EXPRESSED LABOR WOULD BE WEAKENED
During the five-hour debate by the party bureau, the agreement, the nature of which was not immediately disclosed, was opposed by Sarid and Yitzhak Ben-Aharon. They warned that a right-ward drift aimed at attracting Telem and Tehiya as well as the two Likud defectors, would weaken Labor. Peres contended that the party would be strengthened. He dismissed a possible defection by Mapam as something to be discussed in the future.
Raanan Cohen, who heads the party’s minorities division, was alarmed that Labor might adopt the policies advocated by Lin toward Israel’s 680,000 Arab citizens. They call for a tough line toward all Arabs who refuse to cooperate with the Jewish establishment but generosity toward those who do.
Cohen, who engineered Labor’s substantial gains among Arab voters in the June, 1981 elections, said he feared that if Lin’s views set the tone of the party’s policies, Arab voters would turn in increasing numbers to the Communist Party. Meanwhile, both Labor and Likud are courting splinter parties. Begin hopes to convince the Telem faction, founded by the late Moshe Dayan, to join his coalition, thereby restoring its one-vote majority in the Knesset. Labor is seeking the support of Tami, a three-member faction whose current leader, Aharon Uzan, was once a Labor Party member. Pundits in both camps said today that if these efforts fail, early elections are a certainty.