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Party Officials Agree to Readmit Ramon and Followers to Labor Fold

Israel’s Labor Party agreed last week to readmit to its ranks Haim Ramon and his supporters, who seceded from Labor last year.

The decision was approved by a large majority at a session of Labor’s executive in Tel Aviv on March 9.

The decision was considered particularly significant because it comes amid a new flurry of rumors that Ramon may challenge Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for the party leadership and prime ministerial candidacy in next year’s general elections.

Ramon, the leader of the Histadrut labor federation and a Knesset member, last week flatly and repeatedly denied the rumors.

After the Labor executive’s decision, Ramon said formal negotiations would now begin between his group and Labor. A final reconciliation is not expected until the fall.

Ramon, a former minister of health in the Rabin government, quit the Labor Party last year after the government refused to back his program of health reform measures.

Ramon and his supporters, along with members of the left-wing Meretz bloc, had formed a new list, “Ram,” to run in last year’s elections for the Histadrut leadership.

Overturning decades of Labor’s leadership of Histadrut, Ramon won the elections for the top spot in the labor federation.

A central plank of Ram’s platform was the need to root out entrenched corruption in the union movement, particularly the alleged widespread use of Histadrut funds for non-union purposes.

This week, during a blaze of media publicity, the police disclosed ongoing sweeping investigations into these allegations, which reportedly involved some of the top figures of the previous, Labor-led administration of the Histadrut.

Political observers believe that the scandal, which is expected to drag on for many months, could weaken or even cripple the Labor Party.

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