Levy Will Not Chalienge Shamir for Leadership of Herut Party

Deputy Premier David Levy announced tonight that in the interests of party unity, he would not challenge Premier Yitzhak Shamir for leadership of the Herut party in the upcoming election campaign. He urged former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to do likewise and withdraw his challenge to Shamir.

Sharon has already submitted his candidacy for the top spot on the Herut election list which will be decided when the party’s Central Committee meets on April 12.

Levy announced his decision after a brief meeting with Shamir this evening, their third since Sunday. He told reporters that until tonight he had “definitely” intended to run against Shamir.

But the prospect of a divisive internal struggle before the July 23 elections, persuaded him to change his mind. “Sometimes a man must make a sacrifice. That is what I have done, “Levy said. He added, however, that he was “sure” that he could have “led our movement to victory.”

FACTOR IN LEVY’S DECISION

Political observers believe Levy’s decision was influenced less by party considerations than by the damage to his own political standing should he have lost a second contest against Shamir. Levy challenged Shamir last September, shortly after Premier Menachem Begin resigned. The Herut Central Committee rejected his leadership bid by a 60-40 percent margin. Most political observers were convinced he would be defeated again.

Levy called his decision “the toughest … of my life.” He said that, in addition to party unity, he took into consideration the fact that Shamir is an incumbent Prime Minister. He said Shamir had been “very pleased” to hear that he would not oppose him.

Levy said nothing about any “deal” with Shamir. But some observers believe he sought a firm pledge from the Premier to name him Foreign Minister in the next Likud government — should Likud win the elections. Levy has been pressing for that post, which Shamir retained after he succeeded Begin. Shamir insisted that coalition problems prevented his appointment.

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