Menu JTA Search

Israeli Election Campaign Marred by Violence

In what was yet another example of the rowdy behavior that has heated up — and many say disgraced — Israel’s fiercely fought election campaign, a stone was bounced off the roof of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres’ limousine when the Labor Party leader drove into Kiryat Gat for a campaign speech Tuesday night.

It hurt no one and caused no damage beyond scratching the vinyl top.

Local police said Wednesday that they had a suspect in custody, whom they described as a former mental patient.

Peres acted as if nothing untoward occurred, and his appearance in Kiryat Gat was without incident.

He was careful later to distinguish this particular stone-throwing from the violence that has dogged the election campaign to date. Labor claims to be the principal victim.

The entire political community is tense over Labor-Likud recriminations on this issue, but in fact, most of the violent demonstrations in recent days have been aimed against Peres.

Justice Eliezer Goldberg, chairman of the Central Election Committee, has been trying to enforce a code of conduct.

Labor Knesset member Haim Ramon complained bitterly to the committee.

Likud’s Dan Meridor vigorously denied his party organized, instigated or even tacitly approved anti-Peres riots in Beit Shemesh and Ramla this past weekend.

Premier Yitzhak Shamir also spoke out against campaign violence in speeches Monday and Tuesday. But the Likud leader contended that Peres “can hardly expect to be loved and carried aloft . . . since he was the enemy of unity.”

Other Likud figures have suggested in media interviews that the Labor Party deliberately provoked violent incidents to win the sympathy of undecided voters.

Two rowdy demonstrators arrested at a Peres rally in the pro-Likud Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Shalem Monday night were identified by police as Likud activists. No charges were pressed and the two were released.

VIOLENCE BETWEEN RELIGIOUS PARTIES

Meanwhile, violence has flared between two religious parties vying for the ultra-Orthodox vote, the Agudat Yisrael and the new breakaway Degel Ha-Torah.

Degel Ha-Torah leaders vigorously deny their people were responsible for the daubing of unflattering graffiti on the Jerusalem home of the Hasidic rebbe of Gur, head of the Aguda’s Council of Torah Sages.

Degel Ha-Torah’s chief sage is the elderly Rabbi Eliezer Schach, head of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

At a mass rally in Jerusalem Monday night, he spoke briefly against election violence. But most of his speech was devoted to blasting the Chabad Hasidic movement and branding its leader. the New York-based Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, a heretic.

Schach’s unremitting hostility toward the Chabad caused the split in the Aguda party.

Meanwhile, the Central Election Committee decided by majority vote Monday not to disqualify any party lists from the Nov. 1 ballost.

It acted after several leftist factions sued to bar the far right-wing Moledet, Tsomet and Tehiya parties from the elections.

However, the committee’s ban on Rabbi Meir Kahane’s extremist Kach party still stands. It was approved by large majorities last week on grounds that Kach is racist and anti-democratic.

On the other hand, the election committee narrowly upheld the right of the left-wing pro-Palestinian Progressive List for Peace to run in the elections.

Both decisions are being appealed to the High Court, by Kahane in his case, and by right-wing parties trying to get the Progressive List off the ballot.

The High Court was to decide by Wednesday, when election lists must be closed by law.

NEXT STORY