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Labor’s Lead in Election Race is Shrinking, Polls Show

The Labor Alignment’s lead in the election race is shrinking, according to two public opinion polls published last Friday, with indications that a good deal of Labor’s loss of support for the July 23 Knesset elections is slipping away to its “natural allies,” Shinui and the Citizens Rights Movement.

The opposition party now leads Likud by nine Knesset seats, according to Dr. Nima Zemach, whose poll was published in Yediot Achronot, and by 12 seats, according to Hanoch Smith, whose poll was published in The Jerusalem Post. Both pollsters found a significant slippage in Labor’s lead since their past survey of the public–in Zemach’s case, 10 days ago.

Both Zemach and Smith found that Likud is making some ground. Zemach gave Likud 38 seats 10 days ago, while Friday whe gives them 41. Labor, in the same period, went from 53 to 50, according to Zemach. Smith puts the present gap between the two major parties at around 12 seats, but he notes that if the present trend continues it could narrow still further.

The upshot of both polls seems to be that while a Labor victory over the ruling Likud coalition is still likely, a clear-cut Labor-led coalition is altogether a different — and more difficult–proposition. Former Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s newly formed Yahad Party, which both pollsters give around four seats, could therefore become pivotal in postelection horsetrading.

SPECULATION ABOUT BEGIN’S ROLE

The narrowing of the gap between the two political parties has given rise to a renewed flurry of speculation that former Premier Menachem Begin may yet come out of his solitary retirement to give a personal boost to the Likud campaign.

Last Thursday, Begin sent a personal cash contribution of 25,000 Shekels to Likud’s flagging campaign fund — a fact quickly broadcast by Likud to the media. Asked outright by a radio reporter whether he would take part in the campaign, Begin said by telephone: “There are ten days left. We’ll see.”

Deputy Premier David Levy advised reporters to “wait a few days and see” whether Begin would put in a campaign appearance. Premier Yitzhak Shamir, at a rally in Safed, told the audience that the Likud leadership is in daily contact with the former Premier who retired last September.

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