Special Interview a Move Whose Time Has Come
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Special Interview a Move Whose Time Has Come

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A leader of Mapam and a former Knesset member said she believes her party should end its alignment with the Labor Party but to continue to cooperate with it an various issues.

In a special interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Chaika Grosman, who represented Mapam in the Knesset for 12 years, and who is now a secretary of the party, said: “I believe that many of the voters are not pleased with the continued existence of the Alignment. I do not think we can enter the next elections with the slogan used in previous elections, ‘Only not the Likud.’ The electorate wants a more defined platform.”

Grosman pointed out that a serious gap has been developing between Labor and Mapam — the two parties that comprise the Alignment — since the beginning of the war in Lebanon. While Labor voted against a motion of non-confidence in the Likud government when the war broke out, Mapam abstained, she recalled.


Furthermore, she noted, there are basic differences between Labor and Mapam on crucial issues that might determine the future of Israel. Mapam wants an immediate freeze of the Jewish settlements on the West Bank, calls for mutual and simultaneous recognition of Israel and the Palestinians of each other, and is willing to negotiate with “any organization,” including the PLO, that recognizes Israel’s right to exist and repudiates terrorism, Grosman said.

In addition, she stated, Mapam contends that Jordan is a Palestinian state but believes that after a peace agreement is reached between Israel and Jordan the Palestinians can decide on issues regarding their self-determination and independence.

“Mapam’s decisions, in contrast to those of Labor, are much more open-ended and flexible. They do not foreclose options,” Grosman said.

She complained that Mapam was not treated as an equal partner in the Alignment. “Labor has a great deal of internal problems and when a decision has to be reached on major issues, what determines Labor’s position is not the cooperation with Mapam but the need to maintain the unity of the party,” she said.

The outspoken Mapam leader, who is a member of Kibbutz Evron in northern Israel, said that if Mapam does leave the Alignment there is a good likelihood that various elements in the Labor Party that share the principles and ideology of Mapam would join that Socialist-Zionist organization. While Grosman did not mention any names, it was apparent that she was referring to such Labor doves as MK Yossi Sarid and Shulamit Aloni of the Civil Rights Movement.


Turning to the issue of the decline of Socialist ideas in Israeli society and the general shift to the right on the part of growing numbers of Israelis, Grosman said the decline can be attributed to the growing “alienation” between the general public and the “socialist sector” which she said is generally identified with Mapam and the kibbutz movement.

Grosman, a relentless fighter for workers’ rights and a leading advocate of progressive causes, contended that the Socialist elements in Israel failed to imbue the average worker with the feeling of being part of a movement and a partner “in building the country.” She added that in her view, there should be more emphasis on the education of workers and efforts should be made by organized labor to give workers the feeling “that they are part of the factory where they work” by involving them in decision-making processes in companies owned by Histadrut and in firms that are in the public sector.

Grosman pointed out that despite the decline in Socialist ideas, the rule of the Likud government and rightward trend among Israelis, “the Socialist elements in Israel still exist.” She expressed the belief that Socialist ideas will in the future once again play a major role in determining the direction of Israeli society. “There is a great potential for Socialism in Israel,” she claimed.


Grosman, in response to a question, sharply criticized Premier Menachem Begin as being responsible for the “chaos and violence in Israeli society today.” She said that if Begin wanted to, he could stop the spreading hatred between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim.

“He fanned the hatred and incited the public in his speeches before the elections, presenting the Alignment as Ashkenazim, as kibbutzniks, as members of an elite group who plundered the milk and honey of Israel from the poor and deprived sectors of the society.” Pausing for a moment, she added: “Begin bears a heavy responsibility for what’s happening now in Israeli society.”

Grosman is presently in New York attending a conference to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, in which she participated. The conference is sponsored by YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

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