Peres-rabin Showdown Postponed As Labor Panel Sidesteps Decision

The drama of a knock-down-drag-out battle for leadership of the Labor Party faded Sunday into what promises to be a prolonged legal wrangle.

The incumbent chairman, Shimon Peres, and his challenger, former Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, appeared before the party’s legal committee, accompanied by batteries of lawyers.

Peres asked that the election of a new chairman be postponed for the duration of the present Knesset’s term. Rabin, who seems to have a substantial majority behind his leadership bid, insists on a speedy showdown.

The legal committee was unable to offer a clear ruling on Peres’ request. That means the party’s Central Committee, which was to have met last Thursday to decide the issue, may have to postpone again.

Peres complained that Rabin is trying to have him fired. He said he was being unfairly blamed for losing the 1988 elections to Likud and for his inability to establish a Labor-led regime after toppling the unity government in March.

According to Peres, Rabin was privy to his every move and, having raised no objections, was equally responsible for what went wrong.

But Rabin says Peres was solely to blame and should be removed now as Labor’s candidate for prime minister, in the event it overturns the Likud coalition or wins the next elections.

The Knesset’s term ends late in 1991. Per says he was re-elected in 1988 for the duration of that term and should remain in office until then.

At that time, Peres favors primary-type elections, in which the Labor rank and file would choose the party leader.

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