TEL AVIV (Feb. 26)
The suicide of Yaacov Levinson is expected to have serious repercussions within the Labor Party and Histadrut and may bring to a head long simmering power struggles in both those institutions, political observers said today.
Levinson, former board chairman of the Bank Hapoalim who was under police investigation for alleged illegal financial transactions involving overseas companies, shot himself to death at his Ramat Gan home last Thursday. A note found by his body accused the present managers of the bank and leaders of Histadrut of hounding him with false accusations.
The 52-year-old banker was buried Friday at Kibbutz Tzora. No officials of the trade union federation or the bank were among the hundreds attending the funeral services. Levinson’s widow made it clear she wanted none of them present and would not have any Labor Party personalities speak at her husband’s grave.
Nevertheless, the Histadrut Central Committee convened today for a brief memorial service. They were summoned by Yisrael Kessar, Deputy Secretary General of Histadrut. Secretary General Yeruham Meshel who is in Rumania, did not cut short his visit on hearing of Levinson’s death. Meshel is said to have been Levinson’s principal foe and to have hoped to replace him as Bank Hapoalim board chairman. The bank is presently headed by Giora Gazit whom Levinson chose to succeed him when he resigned as chairman last year.
Levinson’s death is expected to heighten the struggle for leadership of the Labor Party between party chairman Shimon Peres and former Premier Yitzhak Rabin. Political circles said Levinson was supported and defended by younger elements in the Labor Party hierarchy who are associated with Peres while his opponents were found mainly among Rabin’s backers.
Peres is due back shortly from a visit to the U.S. and is expected to take a stand on the issue of Meshel’s continued leadership of Histadrut. Meshel reportedly has been grooming Kessar to take over as Secretary General and intends to make a bid for the chairmanship of the Bank Hapoalim. He also seeks the presidency of Hevrat Haovdim, a Histadrut holding company once headed by Levinson. Both positions wield great financial power.
But in the aftermath of Levinson’s suicide, sentiment seems to have turned against Meshel. There are growing demands for his resignation as Secretary General of Histadrut and his appointment to the top posts at the Bank Hapoalim and Hevrat Haovdim appear in doubt.
The suicide is also expected to trigger a close examination of Histadrut and Hevrat Haovdimactivities. Likud Party spokesmen are already demanding a probe of possible connections between the Labor Party and Levinson’s alleged offenses. The Labor Party insists that Levinson’s activities as a banker were in no way connected with his membership in the party. The police are continuing the investigation.