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Peres Trying to Keep Together a Rapidly Fraying Labor Party

Shimon Peres is trying hard to keep the Labor Party glued together on the eve of a national convention that may see it fragmented by defections along ideological lines.

The 2,000-plus delegates will convene Tuesday in Jerusalem for a ceremonial evening of ritual and rhetoric.

They shift Wednesday to Tel Aviv, where the balance of the week will be devoted to lobbying, debating and voting on the party’s platform, its future leadership and other basic issues.

It is there that the clash between hawks and doves may decide the party’s future — or if it has one.

But Labor Party Chairman Peres professes to be unfazed. According to him, the words “hawk” and “dove” signify nothing more than “nuances” of opinion concerning hypothetical scenarios.

For example, Peres observed that the practical negotiations over the final status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip will not even begin for several years.

Why should Laborites fight each other over such matters now, asked Peres, when the basic division in Israeli politics is between Likud, the advocate of “Greater Israel,” and Labor, which preaches territorial compromise.

But Peres’ suggestion Sunday that territorial compromise might be possible on the Golan Heights to achieve peace with Syria drew a furious reaction from the party’s hawks.

They warned they would leave if the platform committee’s recommendations on that subject are approved by the convention.

The draft platform favors territorial concessions on the Golan and calls for a halt to the building of new settlements there.

On the other side of the ideological divide, Labor dove Galia Golan, a Hebrew University Sovietologist, has informed Peres she is quitting Labor to join the Citizens Rights Movement because Labor stands “far, far from my views on key issues.”

Another Labor dove, Knesset member Avrum Burg, has charged that party circles close to Histadrut boss Yisrael Kessar improperly pressured delegates and activists not to attend a rally organized by doves in Tel Aviv on Sunday night.

According to Burg, Histadrut officials made veiled threats of job losses. He spoke of “an atmosphere of terror” in the party.

Party Secretary Micha Harish pressed Burg for names and details. He promised to take disciplinary action against anyone making such threats or exerting such pressure.

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