JERUSALEM (Mar. 28)
Likud and the Labor Party agreed today that elections will be held on Monday, July 23. The government and opposition promptly signed an agreement whereby the government will call the Knesset into special session early next week for the first reading of a bill to dissolve the Knesset and approve the election date. A special session is required because the Knesset begins its Passover recess tonight.
The bill in question is the Labor motion for early elections which the Knesset approved last Thursday by a 61-58 margin. It must pass three readings to become final.
The law requires a 100-day interim from the time the Knesset votes to dissolve itself until election day. But the two sides agreed tonight to shorten that period to 60 days. Within that time frame, all civil servants and commissioned officers in the armed services must submit their resignations if they wish to run for elective office.
DATE REPRESENTS A COMPROMISE
The July 23 date represents a compromise reached after several days of hard bargaining between Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres.
Labor wanted the shortest possible campaign, ending before Israelis go abroad for their summer vacations, and proposed elections on May 22. Likud, hoping that the economy will show some improvement by next fall, argued for elections at the end of October. By agreeing on the second half of July, both parties take certain risks.
LABOR WANTS TO AVOID LEADERSHIP STRUGGLE
Labor is anxious to avoid an internal leadership struggle before the elections. After reaching agreement with Shamir, Peres met with former President Yitzhak Navon to discuss what role the latter will play in the Labor campaign and what position he would accept on the party’s election list.
Details of their meeting were not disclosed and even the place of the meeting was kept secret. Navon reportedly promised Peres to let him know in the next few days if he intends to challenge him for leadership of the party.
There are elements in Labor who are promoting the popular former President for the top spot on the election list which would make him Prime Minister in the event of a Labor victory.
Navon is also scheduled to meet privately with former Premier Yitzhak Rabin, Peres’ principal rival for party leadership, to ascertain his intentions. Some Labor activists believe a Peres-Rabin-Navon troika — in that order — would have the best chance to defeat Likud. It remains to be seen whether Rabin would accept second place and Navon third.