JERUSALEM (Jul. 6)
The Herut Central Committee elected David Levy on Wednesday to the No. 1 slot of its 1988 election slate, as recommended by Premier Yitzhak Shamir, the party leader, who automatically tops the list as candidate for prime minister.
It voted Ariel Sharon No. 2 and put Moshe Arens in the No. 3 spot.
By doing so, the 2,000-plus delegates, meeting in Herzliya, deviated significantly from Shamir’s suggestion. He had stipulated that Arens, his close political associate, get the second spot and Sharon the third.
But the outcome was not a rebuff to Shamir in the view of most pundits. Levy’s camp struck at Arens and Sharon benefited, they said. Moreover, Arens simply lacked sufficient supporters to defeat the combined Levy and Sharon forces.
Levy is housing minister in the present government; Sharon is minister of commerce and industry; and Arens is a minister without portfolio and, like Sharon, a former defense minister.
The three are the most powerful figures in Herut, after Shamir, and have made no secret of their ambition to succeed him.
They went to the Herut convention to battle each other for the first spot, after Shamir, on the Likud ballot the voters will get on election day, Nov. 1. Herut is the largest component of the Likud bloc, which also includes the Liberal Party.
The situation defused itself Monday when Sharon and Arens announced within hours of each other that they would not contend for first place. Both men said they acted in the interests of party harmony.
NETANYAHU RANKED FIFTH
That left Levy unchallenged. Shamir endorsed him on Tuesday, stressing at the same time that the order in which the candidates appear on the ballot would not determine his choice of Cabinet ministers, should he be called upon to form the next government.
He claimed the fight for first place on the list was exaggerated beyond its importance. But he saw fit to intervene, because it had become a matter of prestige among his three top lieutenants, which threatened to lead to “disputes and discord,” Shamir said.
Arens accepted his setback in good grace. He congratulated Levy and Sharon, but refused to acknowledge he may have made a tactical error by withdrawing his candidacy for first place.
Under Herut voting rules, each candidate runs for a specific slot, but their supporters may cast votes for a higher place on the list.
Arens stood for the second spot, but received 626 votes for first, where he was topped by Levy with 909 votes. The 626 votes, added to the 297 cast for Arens in second place, were not sufficient to beat Sharon, who had a combined total of 944 votes for the first and second spots.
The No. 4 place went to the popular minister of labor and social affairs, Moshe Katsav, who ran unchallenged. The fifth was won by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, who left the diplomatic service last April to enter politics.
Knesset member David Magen, a top Sharon supporter, edged out Shamir’s aide, Ronni Milo, for sixth place. The seventh slot went to Binyamin Zeev Begin, son of former Premier Menachem Begin.
The initial Labor Party reaction to the Herut slate came from Ezer Weizman, a minister without portfolio. He called it “extremist” with “no policy message” and “if elected to office, would lead the country perilously closer to war.”