JERUSALEM (Jul. 5)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir recommended to Herut on Tuesday that it install Housing Minister David Levy in the top slot of its 1988 election slate, directly following his own name as party leader and candidate for the prime minister’s office.
He proposed that it select Moshe Arens and Ariel Sharon to fill the second and third spots respectively.
But the premier has stressed in recent days that the order in which they appear will not influence his selection of Cabinet ministers, should he be called upon to form the next government.
Herut is the largest component of the Likud bloc. Its 2,000-plus-member Central Committee will convene Wednesday in Herzliya to decide in what order the 35 Knesset candidates it selected last week will appear on its ballot on election day, Nov. 1.
While the Central Committee is a sovereign body, as Shamir himself took note, outside observers believe that it will comply with the premier’s wishes, with relatively few exceptions.
Shamir’s intervention was seen here as a measure to ensure party harmony, not an expression of favoritism. It came apparently in response to an odd situation that developed on the eve of the Central Committee’s meeting.
SHARON, ARENS HAD BOWED OUT
Sharon, who is minister of commerce and industry, announced Monday on Israel Radio that he will not seek the top spot on the Herut slate. Arens, a minister without portfolio and a former defense minister like Sharon, bowed out a short time later.
Both men said they were acting for the good of the party. Until Monday, they had been battling each other and Levy for the top slot, which signifies the heir apparent to 73-year-old Shamir.
That left Levy unchallenged. He said Tuesday that he accepted the premier’s recommendations as the collective desire of the party leadership in the interests of unity, although he had been “ready for the democratic process.”
Shamir, interviewed on army radio Tuesday night, reiterated that the standings of the candidates would not determine his choice of ministers. He was non-committal when asked if he thought Sharon was “suitable for minister of defense.”
“All the excellent candidates selected by the Central Committee (last week) are suitable for all posts,” the premier replied.
He praised Sharon, however, for being the first candidate to acknowledge that the fight over top spot had been exaggerated beyond its importance.
Shamir agreed, nevertheless, that it had become a matter of prestige among his three top lieutenants, which threatened to lead to “disputes and discord.” Therefore, he saw fit to intervene, Shamir explained.
But political observers expect some Central Committee members will not heed the premier and will vote for their particular favorite.