TEL AVIV (Jul. 7)
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan has apparently forestalled a split in the ranks of the Israel Labor Party. But he strongly indicated, at a rally of his followers here today, that former members of the Rafi faction were deeply dissatisfied with the present party leadership.
Several thousand supporters of Gen. Dayan attended the rally which was held in a Tel Aviv movie theater, not at Labor Party headquarters. That fact alone seemed to bear out Gen. Dayan’s remark that Rafi members felt like “second class” members in Labor Party ranks. He declared nevertheless that he had no intention of splitting the Labor Party or forming a new party. He said he did not think a split was a “must.”
A break in the ranks of the party, formed less than a year ago by merger of the Rafi and Achdut Avodah factions with Mapai, appeared imminent last week and two ranking Labor Party ministers were trying to head it off.
Minister of Labor Yosef Almogi, himself a former Rafi member, urged Gen. Dayan and his followers not to bolt the party despite their dispute with its leadership. The same appeal was made by Deputy Premier Yigal Allon who remarked pointedly that only personal ambition could cause a split because, in his view, there were no ideological or political reasons for one. Gen. Dayan is regarded as Mr. Allon’s most serious rival for the Premiership whenever Premier Golda Meir decides to step down. The Defense Minister sharply criticized Mr. Allon and Mr. Almogi at today’s rally. He complained that Rafi members are not trusted by the party leadership and cited as an example the exclusion of former Rafi members from discussions about who will be the Labor Party candidate in the next Jerusalem municipality elections. Gen. Dayan said further that on security and political problems he found it difficult to join in an alignment with the left-wing Mapam Party. Mapam has joined in a political alignment with the Labor Party and will present a common election list in the October elections. The alignment gave Labor a clear majority in the Knesset for the first time in Israel’s history. But it has come under attack from Labor Party factions and from Mapam dissidents who announced plans recently to file a separate election list.
Premier Meir was supposed to attend the Rafi rally today to appeal for unity, but she did not show up. Rafi, once headed by former Premier David Ben Gurion, broke away from the Mapai Party several years ago but joined it in last year’s merger of the main labor factions. Rafi leaders have recently expressed dissatisfaction with the Labor Party’s preparations for the Knesset elections and voiced other demands. Some Rafi adherents want to present an ultimatum to the party.