Israelis Elect New National Government Tomorrow; Labor Party Seen Triumphant
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Israelis Elect New National Government Tomorrow; Labor Party Seen Triumphant

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Israelis will go to the polls tomorrow amid a worsening Mideast crisis to elect their seventh Knesset (Parliament). But no one expects the elections to change the political complexion of the country to any noticeable degree. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the combined Labor factions headed by Premier Golda Meir will emerge victorious.

The margin of the Labor victory may be less by a few percentage points than it was in the last Knesset election in 1965. But whatever the outcome, it is virtually certain that Mrs. Meir will retain the present “national unity coalition” Government put together by the late Levi Eshkol on the eve of the June, 1967 Six-Day War.

Lack of suspense over the outcome and a widespread feeling that the elections will have little effect on the one all-pervading issue facing Israel–lack of peace with its Arab neighbors — have made for voter apathy, JTA columnist Eliahu Salpeter reported today.

The turnout at the polls is expected to be poor compared to previous elections. This became apparent recently when less than two-thirds of the eligible voters cast ballots for the governing councils of Histadrut, Israel’s labor federation. The elections were regarded as a dress rehearsal for the Knesset balloting. And while a greater percentage of the 1,750,000 registered voters will vote Tuesday, it is expected to fall far short of the 85 percent that went to the polls in 1965. Mr. Salpeter wrote.

The ballots will contain the lists of 16 different political factions offering candidates for the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s unicameral Parliament. In addition, voters will elect mayors, council members and other officials in hundreds of municipalities from the largest cities to the tiniest villages.

Under the national system of proportional representation, Knesset seats are allocated on the basis of percentage of votes won by each faction.

The election will probably see a consolidation of Labor strength. For the past year the former Mapai, Achdut Avodah and Rafi factions have been merged, if somewhat uneasily, in a United Labor Party. Earlier this year, the left-wing Labor faction, Mapam, associated itself with the Labor Party to the extent of presenting common lists in the Knesset, municipal and Histadrut elections.

The strongest opposition faction is Gahal, made up of the nationalistic Herut, headed by Menachem Beigin, the underground guerrilla leader of pre-Statehood days, and the Liberal Party consisting of middle-roaders, general Zionists and businessmen. Gahal is a member of the coalition Government and is expected to be part of the new Government. As such, neither Gahal, nor Labor nor the other coalition members, which cover the entire political spectrum, seem to offer an alternative to present government policies.

On the surface, at least, the only dissenting voices come from splinter parties outside the government. At one extreme is the Land of Israel movement which advocates Israel’s annexation of the occupied Arab territories; on the other is the so-called “Peace List” which wants Israel to withdraw from the occupied areas with or without a peace settlement. Neither of these fringe groups has made any impression on the mass of Israelis. Together with the other splinter parties, they are expected to win no more than a handful of Knesset seats, Mr. Salpeter reported.

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