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Israeli Election Race Has Not Begun, but Mudslinging Already in High Gear

April 24, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The end of Passover will signal the beginning, in earnest, of Israel’s political campaign, and the question facing both major parties is: Will it be clean or dirty?

Likud appears to have opted for mudslinging, chiefly at Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin, whose popularity among undecided voters and disgruntled Likudniks has it worried.

Gil Samsonov, head of Likud’s youth campaign staff, announced that he and his team are preparing large quantities of chemical fluids to “erase the ‘nun’ (letter N) from Rabin’s name.”

The attack is aimed at the Labor election posters that have gone up on billboards across the country. They show an earnest-looking Rabin above the legend “Israel is Waiting for Rabin.”

The poster may be intended to conjure up a subliminal association with the 1967 war song, “Nasser is Waiting for Rabin,” who was then Israel Defense Force chief of staff and the most acclaimed hero of the Six-Day War.

Without the “nun,” the poster would read, “Israel is Waiting for a Rabbi.”

Labor immediately cried foul at Likud’s plans. It argued that if Likud is going to tamper with other parties’ posters, there is no point in signing the solemn pledge to conduct an “honorable campaign” that precedes every Israeli election — and is usually honored in the breach.

Samsonov’s youth squad seems to be setting the tone by its plans to fire a personal broadside at Rabin.

Key Labor activists reported hearing this week that Rabin is being pilloried as a drunkard or even an alcoholic at Likud parlor meetings.

Likud Knesset members appearing at those meetings were said to be circulating stories about the Labor Party leader’s alleged incapacity to function “under pressure.”

The “drunkenness” slur stems from old rumors that Rabin is a heavy drinker at times and does not always hold his liquor well.

Rabin claims he is the victim of a smear campaign. He says he drinks no more than is socially acceptable.


The reference to “pressure” dredges up a 25-year-old allegation that Rabin suffered a nervous breakdown in the tense period immediately before the outbreak of the Six-Day War.

It was given currency in 1973 by Ezer Weizman, a Likud politician at the time, who had been deputy chief of staff in 1967.

Weizman was trying to persuade the Labor Party not to elect Rabin its leader and prime ministerial candidate. He has long since made his peace with Rabin and, in fact, left Likud for Labor in the 1980s.

Labor’s intention in the 1992 campaign is to focus on Rabin’s popularity, which only increases the temptation of Likud to wage a personal campaign against him.

Political sources reported this week that Likud was preparing a “Rabin file” of awkward and/or embarrassing information to hurl at the Labor leader.

Rabin himself says he will not divulge his party’s tactics. “But we won’t be merely defensive,” he told the Labor-affiliated newspaper Davar last weekend.

“We will attack, hitting where we think it most effective,” he said. “I dare say the Likud will use acerbic propaganda against me and other Labor figures as well as against our party’s positions. That’s what they’ve done in the past.

“We, for our part, will put forward our positions forcefully and will lash out at the failures of the Likud,” Rabin declared.

That sounds statesmanlike. But when push comes to shove, Labor is likely to sling as much mud as its rival.

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