JERUSALEM (Jan. 8)
The Zionist General Council opens its meeting here tonight embroiled in a major controversy over the nomination by the Herut Hatzohar movement of former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon for the vacant post of chairman of the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency Aliya Department.
Sharon, probably the most controversial figure in Israeli politics, has made it clear that he wants the post. But first the General Council must elect him a member of the WZO Executive, if he wins election, he must then be named by the Jewish Agency Board of Governors to the chairmanship of the Aliya Department.
While Premier Yitzhak Shamir supports his Herut party’s choice, Sharon faces powerful opposition from Leon Dulzin, chairman of the WZO and Jewish Agency Executives and a leader of Likud’s Liberal Party wing; and from Jerold Hoffberger of Baltimore, chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors. The Liberal Party Executive nevertheless has endorsed Sharon.
SHAMIR FALLS TO PERSUADE DULZIN
Shamir tried and failed today to persuade Dulzin to change his mind. At a meeting between the two this afternoon, Dulzin maintained that Sharon, despite his many talents in other areas, was not suited for the aliya post.
Informed sources said Dulzin mode it unequivocally clear to the Prime Minister that he would not support Sharon’s candidacy although he agreed that chairmanship of the Aliya Department should go to a Herut person. But Herut will have to put up a candidate who will command widespread support in the Jewish world, both in Israel and abroad, Dulzin said.
Hoffberger, in an interview broadcast on the army radio station today, stated flatly that he could not support Sharon, While he praised the retired general as a military man, he asserted that he was not a person Diaspora youth would follow.
The controversy surrounding Sharon stems from his hard-line policies while he served as Defense Minister in the government of former Premier Menachem Begin and especially his role in the Lebanon war. Sharon was forced to resign the defense portfolio last year on the recommendations of the Kahan Committee which investigated the Shatila and Sabra refugee camps massacre of September, 1982.
Although Sharon remains in the Cabinet as a Minister-Without-Portfolio, Hoffberger indicated that the shadow hanging over him compromised his acceptability for a position associated with the promotion of allay.
Another problem faced by Sharon is the opinion of legal experts that he cannot serve as a member of the Jewish Agency Executive while a member of the Cabinet. Sharon for his part is not prepared to give up his Cabinet seat.
Dulzin predicted in an interview over the weekend that Sharon’s candidacy will not be approved. Political sources said Herut Hatzohar seems to realize that it lacks the votes to assure his election to the Executive and has postponed debate on the issue, which was to begin tomorrow, to later in the week. Herut activists have warned, however, that if their man is rejected, the party might leave the WZO.
LINEUP OF MAJOR PARTIES
Political pundits said today that when the matter comes up for a vote, the World Confederation of General Zionists, which includes Hadassah, might hold the balance of power. Labor Zionists, vehemently opposed to Sharon, have called for a secret ballot which is not usual in elections to the Executive.
The Liberal Party is split. Two of its Cabinet members, Gideon Part, Minister of Commerce and Industry, and Abraham Sharir, Minister of Tourism, do not share Dulzin’s view. They were reportedly seeking to persuade their overseas allies, members of the World Union of General Zionists, to back Sharon. The World Union has allowed its members a free vote.