JERUSALEM (Dec. 23)
Likud’s huge Central Committee voted overwhelmingly late Sunday against supporting an electoral reform measure soon to be voted on by the Knesset.
About 80 percent of the 3,400 members rejected the pending legislation, which calls for popular election of the prime minister by a separate ballot during the quadrennial Knesset elections.
Political analysts said the lopsided vote likely kills the chances of the electoral reform measure passing the Knesset.
The Central Committee meeting also was the occasion for a barrage of attacks on Labor and the left-wing opposition parties.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir accused the left of “consorting with the worst of our enemies,” who “would rob us of Jerusalem and who resort to armed terrorism against us.”
Even more strident was the attack by Likud hawk Ariel Sharon, who blamed Labor for U.S. pressure on Israel in the peace process.
While targeting Labor, the outspoken housing minister discarded for the moment his promised challenge of Shamir for party leadership and the office of prime minister.
Labor Party leaders reacted swiftly. “Beneath comment,” declared Yitzhak Rabin.
Haim Ramon, chairman of Labor’s Knesset faction, accused Likud of incitement.
The left-wing Mapam and Citizens Rights Movement likened the Likud attack to the “worst of Bolshevik hate propaganda.”
Some observers sensed that Likud’s assault on Labor was contrived to justify its opposition to a reform measure it once actively supported.
Not too long ago, leading Likud figures, including Shamir, backed reform, on the grounds that it would eliminate the unsavory coalition bargaining process, which most Israeli politicians profess to abhor.
But that was before polls indicated that Rabin, who was defense minister in the last unity government, would out-poll Shamir in a direct election.