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Sharon, Arens Pull out of Race for Second Spot on Herut Slate

An explosive situation that developed in Herut as its 2,000-plus member Central Committee prepared to meet this week in Herzliya seemed to defuse itself Monday night.

Herut is the major component of the Likud bloc. Two of its top leaders announced that in the interests of party harmony, they would not seek the so-called No. 1 slot on the election slate, just below the top spot filled by Premier Yitzhak Shamir.

This made it less likely that a fight would erupt on the floor when the Central Committee convenes to finalize Herut’s 1988 election list.

The committee had a relatively tame session last week when it selected the party’s 35 Knesset candidates. The meeting this Wednesday will rank them in three groups of seven. A head-on clash for first place loomed between Ariel Sharon, Moshe Arens and David Levy.

But Sharon, who is minister of commerce and industry in the current government, abjured Monday on Israel Radio, declaring that personal or party interests must not be put ahead of fundamental national issues.

A short while later, Arens, a minister without portfolio and former defense minister like Sharon, told protesting supporters at a meeting in Tel Aviv that he, too, was withdrawing for the good of the movement.

LEVY RUNNING UNCHALLENGED

That left Housing Minister David Levy the only candidate. He had vowed a fight and possible split in Herut if he was not elected. Now, seemingly, he has no challengers for the spot that signifies the heir apparent and probable successor to 73-year-old Shamir.

It is not immediately known how he will react. Some Levy supporters are expected to claim that Sharon and Arens pulled out because they are afraid to do battle with him.

Sharon announced Monday on Israel Radio that he wants the No. 22 spot on his party’s Knesset slate. That would put him at the bottom of the third list of seven.

Sharon was promptly hailed by Shamir for putting the election contest into proper perspective.

The premier, anxious to avoid an internal battle, asserted repeatedly Sunday and Monday that the results of the Central Committee’s voting would not necessarily determine whom he selects as ministers in his new Cabinet, should Likud win the Nov. 1 elections and head a new government.

Most political observers believe that Arens, who has been strongly backed by Shamir, could defeat Sharon or Levy in an internal contest. But they are not sure he can beat the two in combination.

Because of the heavy volume of news during the Independence Day weekend, today’s JTA Daily News Bulletin has been expanded to six pages.

Sharon’s public rejection of personal ambition for the greater good was seen by many as a shrewd political maneuver. They believe he is seeking an alliance with Levy against the Arens camp. So far, according to inside sources, he has failed.

Because of the heavy volume of news during the Independence Day weekend, today’s JTA Daily News Bulletin has been expanded to six pages.

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