JERUSALEM (May. 21)
With polls showing it ahead in public favor, the Labor Party accused Likud this week of preparing a personal smear campaign against Yitzhak Rabin.
Police Minister Ronni Milo of Likud sounded an indignant denial Wednesday. But Micha Harish, the Labor Party’s secretary-general, told reporters that Likud was preparing to hand out tens of thousands of plastic cups bearing the legend “The country needs a sober prime minister.”
The implication is that Rabin, who would be prime minister in a Labor-led government, is a drunkard. Harish challenged Milo to take a lie-detector test to disprove the charge.
Media reports Thursday claimed Likud has hired researchers to dig up material from Rabin’s past to show he cannot function under pressure.
Rabin was Israel Defense Force chief of staff during the 1967 Six-Day War. He served subsequently as Israeli ambassador to Washington, as prime minister and defense minister.
Labor sources claim Likud not only is trying to dig up dirt on those periods of his career but plans to depict Rabin’s wife, Leah, as having excessive and prejudicial influence over him.
“I expected as much,” Rabin commented to reporters Wednesday night. According to Labor campaign chiefs, Likud will resort to personal mudslinging out of “a state of panic.”
Meanwhile, a more arcane aspect of the elections wound to conclusion Thursday when Likud and the right-wing Tsomet faction announced they have signed a “remainder” agreement.
The agreements concern the disposition of the excess votes a party may get which are more than enough to elect one candidate to the Knesset but insufficient to bring in the next candidate on the list.
Some critics despair, “Only in Israel,” but the practice could be common to any legislature elected by proportional representation.
If 25,000 votes are needed for one Knesset mandate and a party polls 80,000, it gets three seats, with 5,000 votes left.
If it has a remainder agreement with another party, whichever of the two has the larger remainder gets the remainders of both. Combined, they could be sufficient to win it another Knesset seat.
Remainder agreements do not necessarily signify political alliances between the signatories in government or the opposition. But they are usually contracted between parties of similar ideological stripe.
The right-wing Moledet and Tehiya parties signed a remainder agreement Wednesday. The National Religious Party remains the only one of Israel’s traditional parties without such an arrangement.