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Shamir and Peres to Hold Major Political Debate

Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres will have their major debate of the political campaign tomorrow. It will be taped during the day and broadcast on radio and television during the nightly half hour allotted for electioneering.

Politicians and the public, meanwhile, were puzzled by the sharp disparity in the results of the latest election polls conducted by Likud and the Labor Party. The Likud poll showed the gap between the two parties narrowing significantly with election day only two weeks off. According to Labor’s poll, the Alignment’s comfortable lead is holding steady.

Likud’s pollster is Dr. Sarah Shemer, until recently with the Modiin Ezrachi poll organization, and a well known professional in the field. Her survey, covering 4,000 voters gave Likud 41 Knesset seats to 48 for Labor, by far the best performance that Likud has registered in public preference polls since the election campaign began.

If the Shemer poll is accurate and if the right-wing Tehiya Party picks up five Knesset seats, as expected, Labor would find it difficult if not impossible to put together a stable coalition even with a margin of Knesset mandates in its favor.

The Labor Party’s poll over the weekend, was conducted by Dr. Avi Diskin. The party’s poll director, Yossi Beilin, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that it covered more than 2,000 persons who were interviewed in person or by telephone.

The results gave Labor 53 Knesset seats to 37 for Likud. They were consistent with a poll published in Yediot Achronot last Friday which gave Labor a 53-38 lead over Likud. Beilin offered no explanation for the disparity between the Labor and Likud polls.

FORMAT OF THE DEBATE

Likud activists have been bouyed by the poll results and consider them partly the result of television campaigning. They also attach great importance to tomorrow’s Shamir-Peres debate.

It will be taped at the Likud studios in Herzliya, that having been decided by the toss of a coin between Labor MK Yossi Sarid and Likud MK Ronni Milo.

Each party leader will be given two minutes to respond to three identical questions posed by journalist Dan Pattir. Each will then be allowed a brief concluding statement summarizing his basic policy goals. Sarid apparently lost another coin toss because Shamir will make the final concluding statement.

Meanwhile, the campaign has cooled down somewhat after a spate of mud-slinging by both major contending parties in their nightly pre-taped television pitches. Supreme Court Justice Gavriel Bach, chairman of the Central Elections Committee which acts as a non-partisan referee in the campaign, laid down the law yesterday to the Labor and Likud campaign chairmen, MK Mordechai Gur and Deputy Premier David Levy. Bach has already used his authority to delete offensive or unduly inflammatory material from both parties’ messages.

FIRST OUTBREAK OF PARTISAN VIOLENCE

But political observers were disturbed by the first outbreak of partisan violence since the campaign began. This occurred in Tiberias last night when pro-Likud rowdies prevented Peres from completing his speech to an otherwise friendly audience. Chants of “David (Levy) King of Israel” and “Arik (Ariel Sharon) King of Israel” were a prelude to a hail of bottles and stones aimed at the speaker. Five persons were arrested.

The episode was mild in comparison to the 1981 campaign when mobs chanting “Begin King of Israel” repeatedly disrupted Labor election rallies. Labor made good use of those incidents by showing them on their television time and many experts believe they gained votes as a result.

Beilin told the JTA today that there was no intention to repeat the tactic in this campaign. He said Labor hoped the disruption in Tiberias was an isolated incident.

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