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Labor Members Attack Peres Plan, but Polls Indicate Support

April 29, 1988
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Foreign Minister Shimon Peres’s blueprint for peace through territorial compromise came under attack from both left and right-wing elements of the Labor Party, at a meeting of its political committee in Tel Aviv Thursday.

Knesset Speaker Shlomo Hillel, a leader of the party’s hawks, thought the plan was too vague with respect to the future of Jewish settlements in the territories. Leftists found it lacking in detail and too “amorphous.”

The criticism was voiced amid reports that a significant majority of Israelis support territorial compromise in principle and thought Peres, chairman of the Labor Party, could handle the peace process better than Premier Yitzhak Shamir, leader of Likud.

The newspaper Hadashot reported Thursday on an internal study and public opinion surveys recently conducted for the Labor Party. The results, disclosed Wednesday by the party’s secretary general, Uzi Baram, showed that about 58 percent of the respondents support territorial compromise.

More than 60 percent support a “non-coercive” international conference for Middle East peace, meaning one without power to impose solutions or veto agreements.

If the surveys, conducted among 1,500 persons during March and April, are correct, most Israelis favor the Labor Party’s approach to peace over the Likud approach.


Baram insisted that the polls were conducted scientifically and the results valid, Hadashot reported. One surprise finding was that 66 percent of the respondents who identified themselves as Likud voters said they were prepared to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and de-militarize it.

Asked which leader they would prefer to handle the peace process, Peres won over Shamir by more than 20 percent. A small minority thought the two leaders should act in concert, indicating a considerable drop in support for the Labor-Likud unity coalition government.

Peres presented his proposals, titled “The Plan for Israel’s Peace and Security,” to the party’s political committee for review. Some of it, incorporated in the Labor Party’s election platform, was leaked in part to the news media this week.

After Peres read the document, Hillel complained that it was prepared without consulting the party leadership. He said the article, which stated that the “Israeli settlements in the territories would remain in the area, also after a territorial compromise,” was an inadequate guarantee.

Dr. Ephraim Snch, until recently head of the civil administration in the West Bank, criticized the plan from the left. He said it failed to specify with whom Israel would be willing to negotiate to effect territorial compromise.

Reserve Brig. Gen. Avigdor Ben-Gal, who only recently joined the Labor Party, complained that its message was not “understood, not clear and not sharp enough.”

Ben-Gal, who has a distinguished record as commander of the northern front, is one of several retired Israel Defense Force generals recruited by the Labor Party to campaign for it in the upcoming Knesset election race.

Another is reserve Gen. Ori Or, former commander of the central front. The purpose of having these popular military men with outstanding combat command records in the party’s ranks is to deflect Likud charges that Labor is “soft on security.”

Labor also realizes it must persuade an increasingly hard-line public that territorial compromise will provide Israel with both security and peace.

“Peace and security are two sides of the same coin,” Peres has stressed. His idea of territorial compromise has gained ground in what has been called Israel’s military-intellectual complex.

One of its branches is the prestigious Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, headed by reserve Gen. Aharon Yariv, a former chief of military intelligence.

Yariv and his colleagues belong to no political party, but their activities clearly work in Labor’s favor and provide powerful support for its platform on issues of defense and foreign policy.

(Contributing to this report were correspondents David Landau and Gil Sedan in Jerusalem, and Hugh Orgel in Tel Aviv.)

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