Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Rowdyism Emerges for the First Time in Israel’s Election Campaign

July 13, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

With a dozen days to go before the Knesset elections, serious rowdyism emerged for the first time yesterday in what has been a generally civil if lackluster campaign.

Pro-Likud hecklers dogged the paths of Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres and former Premier Yitzhak Rabin who are slated to be Prime Minister and Defense Minister, respectively, if Labor forms the next government. Fisticuffs broke out on many occasions and police waded in to remove the trouble-makers, many of them youngsters well below voting age.

Peres was harassed at a Labor rally in Ramat Sharon near Tel Aviv when youths took up the chant “Begin, Begin” in an attempt to drown out his speech. Rabin encountered the same outcry during a campaign appearance in a movie house in Kiryat Shemona on the Lebanese border. There the hecklers also chanted “David, King of Israel,” a reference to Deputy Premier David Levy who, like many residents of Kiryat Shemona, is Sephardic.

Kiryat Shemona residents, for years the target of terrorist rocket attacks from Lebanon, are extremely sensitive to the issue of security. Rabin took pains to distinguish the original “Operation Peace for Galilee” in June, 1982, which the Labor Party supported, from the incursion by Israeli forces all the way to Beirut, an extension of the war that he proclaimed ill-advised and “delusive.”


Enthusiastic Laborites in the front rows applauded the former Premier but the hecklers in the rear shouted their imprecations more loudly. Scuffles broke out and a large force of police and border police intervened. Six youngsters were hauled off to the local jail and kept there until Rabin left town.

Peres ran into trouble during his evening visit to the religious settlements of the Gush Etzion bloc between Bethlehem and Hebron. He was harassed there by supporters of Likud, Tehiya and the Kach Party who seemed intent on provoking fist fights with his security men.

The Labor leader was warmly welcomed, however, by the dean of the Allon Shevut Yeshiva in Etzion, Rabbi Yehuda Amittal, and Moshe Moshkovitz, founder of Efrata township, part of the Gush Etzion complex. Amittal is one of the few Orthodox leaders who is an outspoken opponent of the militant Gush Emunim.

Peres managed to hold a serious dialogue with Gush Etzion residents. He recalled that this bloc of settlements, founded before 1948, abandoned during Israel’s War of Independence and re-established in 1967, was always supported by Labor governments and considered part of Israel. But the residents were clearly unhappy with his remarks about other areas of Jewish settlement on the West Bank.

Peres and Rabin have made it clear in the campaign that a Labor government would drastically cut back settlement activity in the heartland of the Judaea and Samaria districts for budgetary, security and political reasons. The Laborites believe Israel’s security would be best served by settlements along the Jordan River and in the environs of Jerusalem, avoiding the heavily Arab populated regions which Likud seems intent on colonizing with Jews.

“To say that you defend Israel from the villas ten minutes from Kfar Saba, 20 minutes from Netanya, that’s utter nonsense,” Rabin has been telling his audiences around the country. The “villas” he referred to are government-subsidized private developments within easy commuting distance of Israel’s main cities. Their intent is to attract into the territories Jewish settlers who are not ideologically motivated but interested in good housing at a fraction of its cost in Israel.

Another opposition candidate who had a rough time yesterday is Amnon Rubinstein of the small, leftist Shinui faction which would be likely to join a Labor-led coalition. His campaign appearance in Petach Tikva was marred by yellow-shirted Kach activists who milled around him wherever he went, shouting invectives and picking fights with his sympathizers.

Recommended from JTA