TEL AVIV (May. 24)
The Liberal Party Central Committee voted last night to continue their 19-year-old alliance with Herut. The balloting shortly after midnight, was seen as a defeat for Liberal Party chairman Yitzhak Modai who had opposed any changes in the agreements entered into between the Liberals and Herut in 1965.
According to political observers, Modai was overruled by his fellow Cabinet ministers and Liberal MKs who were determined to preserve their seats in the next Knesset even at the cost of reducing their party’s representation on the Likud election list.
HERUT’S COMPROMISE ACCEPTED
The Central Committee, after a stormy closed-door session accepted Herut’s compromise — laid down by Premier Yitzhak Shamir at a meeting with Energy Minister Modai and Justice Minister Moshe Nissim yesterday — to present 16 instead of 18 candidates among the first 50 on the Likud ticket. But they rejected Herut’s call for a merger of the two parties before the July 23 elections.
Modai had argued vigorously against both proposals and urged the Liberal’s to break with Herut if the latter did not withdraw its demands. After he was over-ridden, he sought to play down the extent of his defeat by telling reporters that his tough talk in recent days had been “tactical chess moves” to extract maximum concessions from Herut.
Herut lost on the merger issue which it considered important reportedly because it fears that certain Liberal MKs who are re-elected on the Likud ticket might later switch their allegiance to the Labor Alignment. But the possibility of merger was kept alive by the Liberal’s agreement to discuss it after the elections.
According to political observers, the Liberals compromised because they were convinced that a split in Likud would assure a Labor victory at the polls. Some public opinion surveys find the Laborites well ahead but others indicate that less than two months before the elections, the two parties are running neck-and-neck. Last night’s decision raised angry dissension among Liberal doves. Mayor Shlomo Lehat of Tel Aviv predicted that clashes with Herut are inevitable because of the of the ideological differences between the two major components of Likud. These, he said, are bound to emerge after the elections. “I am for an independent-minded Liberal Party with a wide range of views and not an order of Jesuits,” Lehat declared.
His sentiments were echoed by Leon Dulzin, chairman of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization Executives who was interviewed by telephone from South America where he is presently engaged in Jewish Agency business.