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Herut Party Central Committee Meeting Breaks Up After Shamir Stages Controversial Vote

A noisy session of the Herut Party’s Central Committee broke up in disorder last night following a controversial vote staged by Herut leader and Deputy Premier Yitzhak Shamir to incorporate the tiny La’am faction into the party.

Tension was high at the meeting because what was at stake was added support for Shamir and, to a lesser extent, Ariel Sharon, the Industry and Trade Minister, in the continuing power struggle in Herut with Deputy Premier David Levy.

La’am members who, under the agreement with Herut, are to receive nine percent of the representation on Herut bodies, favor Shamir and Sharon over Levy, who hopes to oppose Shamir for Herut leadership when new Knesset elections are held. La’am has three members in the Knesset, part of the Likud bloc. They are led by Ehud Olmert.

Herut members delivered impassioned speeches last night for and against allowing the Central Committee, rather than the Party convention–last held in 1979 and due to convene again by the end of this year — to vote for the La’am merger. Levy wants the decision postponed to the convention.

Practically none of the speakers during the meeting could be heard because of loud arguments going on in the hall and between the members and the leaders on the platform. In many instances delegates rushed to the dais table and seized the microphone away from the speakers to make their own points on the proposed La’am incorporation.

Finally, Shamir rose and suddenly announced that a vote by a show of hands in favor of immediate incorporation of La’am was being taken and announced without pause that the majority had voted in favor.

The meeting dispensed in an uproar. Some Central Committee members said later they had not been issued voting cards while other observers and deputy delegates, not entitled to vote, proudly displayed voting cards they had been given.

LEVY REJECTS VOTE

An angry Levy told reporters as he left the meeting that he did not recognize the vote, although he declined to say what action should be taken. He said the decision was “insignificant except that it has hurt very many members of Herut’s Central Committee.”

The Tel Aviv branch of the Israeli Journalists Association, meanwhile, published a sharp protest today of what it described as the man-handling of reporters during the meeting last might. The Association said that public groups such as the Herut Committee and other organizations should ensure that reporters can fulfill their professional functions without hindrance, and assaults on journalists were a threat to democracy.

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