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Labor Party Reaching Showdown Stage As Internal Report Said to Slam Peres

The bitter power struggle within the Labor Party may soon reach the showdown stage, with the imminent publication of an internal report said to be sharply critical of the stewardship of party leader Shimon Peres.

The study analyzes Labor’s poor performance in the 1988 Knesset elections, from which it emerged second to Likud, and media reports Thursday said its thrust would be that Peres was directly to blame.

Peres charged Thursday that there were biased leaks by certain members of the party’s study panel writing the report, who acted “out of factional motives.”

Peres’ leadership of the Labor Party has been openly challenged by his longtime rival, former Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The authors of the report charge that Peres and his closest aides were in control of the party’s campaign propaganda machinery, which they used to focus attention on Peres as the prime ministerial candidate, although the polls showed Rabin was more popular with undecided voters.

The panel’s chairman, Professor Yoram Lass, said Thursday that the media reports were premature. They were unauthorized and did not reflect the finished report, he said.

Lass, however, did not categorically deny the veracity of the media leaks.

Ha’aretz reported Peres was bringing heavy pressure on the study panel to modify its language.

The tension between Rabin and Peres escalated Wednesday, when Rabin described the recent coalition negotiations as “a stinking exercise.”

Rabin was implying that Peres and his aides wasted their time in hopeless dickering with the ultra-Orthodox Shas and Degel HaTorah parties and a group of Likud renegades, the Zionist-Liberal faction, who have since returned to Likud.

But Shamir has also had scant success so far in forming a government, because the religious parties he needs to form a governing coalition are insisting that Likud and Labor try to establish a new unity government.

Labor Party Secretary-General Micha Harish threw cold water on the idea Thursday, when he made clear to the National Religious Party that the two blocs would have to be evenly balanced in a new alliance.

The NRP, apparently speaking for Likud as well, informed Labor that was not acceptable. The religious party will continue its efforts only over the weekend.

It has indicated that if it fails to catalyze a new unity government, it will cast its lot with Likud.

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