TEL AVIV (Mar. 2)
Foreign Minister David Levy and his supporters received a staggering political setback this week as the Likud Central Committee went about the task of assembling the party’s Knesset slate for the June 23 elections.
Levy, who dropped from first to third place in Sunday’s voting for the top seven candidates to follow Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, saw his backers squeezed out of most of the other groups of seven as the Central Committee put together the Likud slate in descending order.
The forces aligned with Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens, joined by those loyal to Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, effectively kept Levy and his supporters at bay.
Apart from Levy himself, only two of his supporters ranked among the 21 candidates comprising the first three groups of seven chosen Monday evening.
And Levy’s principal ally, Commerce Minister Moshe Nissim of Likud’s former Liberal Party wing, was not among them. In fact, only two former Liberals placed among the top 21 spots on the party list.
The list consisted mainly of candidates recommended by the Shamir-Arens and Sharon blocs, giving the party a hard-line complexion and, according to Levy, boding ill for the peace process.
The foreign minister accused Shamir of “destroying the Likud” by trying to “crush” opposing camps and install his own people.
The deepening rift drew comments from thoughtful Knesset members and activists on both sides, who suggested that Likud’s method of selecting candidates was divisive and harmful to the party as a whole and therefore helpful to its political foes.
Limor Livnat, one of the few women to make Likud’s initial list of 50 candidates last week, said the Likud should adopt Labor’s primary elections system, which allows all registered party members to vote for candidates.
Emotions ran so high after Levy’s initial defeat Sunday that some disgruntled activists chanted “Rabin, Rabin.”
Primary elections two weeks ago propelled Yitzhak Rabin to the leadership of the Labor Party, replacing his longtime rival, Shimon Peres. Most political pundits believe Rabin will be a stronger candidate against Shamir than Peres.
Labor will compose its party list via the primary process later this month.