Labor Party Convention Ends in Unity

The Labor Party ended its convention with a strong display of unity after unanimously electing a 1,300-member Central Committee with greatly expanded powers at the second and final session in Tel Aviv shortly before midnight Thursday.

The new body, carefully selected to represent every group and trend within the party, will draft the lists of Labor candidates for the Knesset and office holders in such institutions as Histadrut and the World Zionist Organization. The Central Committee thereby replaces the various “arrangements committees” that were formerly activated for such tasks before elections.

The change gives Labor a broadly based central body such as the rival Herut Party has had for some time. In theory at least, it removes the selection of candidates from party leaders and power brokers in favor of a more democratic system. Herut now seems to be in a position somewhat analogous to the badly divided Labor Party before the 1977 elections when Labor was unseated for the first time in 30 years by Likud under the leadership of Menachem Begin.

With Begin in retirement, a bitter power struggle developed in Herut where David Levy and Ariel Sharon is each seeking to replace Yitzhak Shamir as party leader. Levy and Sharon joined their factions in an alliance of convenience against Shamir, causing the Herut convention last March to break up in chaos before any leader was elected.

Since then there have been desultory behind-the-scenes efforts to heal the rift and reconvene the convention to complete its business. Shamir, who is scheduled to replace Shimon Peres as Prime Minister when the rotation of power agreement goes into effect next October, remains nominally the Herut leader.

Meanwhile, a new political faction, the Liberal Center Party, will hold its founding convention in Tel Aviv next week and is expected to elect Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lehat its leader. The Liberal Center comprises disaffected members of the Liberal Party wing of Likud who have balked against the projected merger of the Liberal Party with Herut.

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