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October 28, 1988 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-10-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


Stalemate II?

Continued from preceding page

the Prime Minister's office for the
Foreign Ministry.
lb a fickle voting public, he is once
again widely perceived as a tricky-
dealer who cannot be trusted to hold
the line and protect Israel's vital in-
His approval rating has dropped
to about 40 percent, giving rise to
speculation that his own leadership
will. be on the line unless he can
return a decisive Labor victory on
Nov. 1.
Yitzhak Shamir, who succeeded
Begin as Likud Party leader, has still
not been able to emerge from the
shadow of the right-wing colossus. He
does, however, possess extraordinary,
if subtle, political skills.
With his stolid, ponderous, lack-
luster style, he effectively blocked the
peace momentum which Peres set in
motion following his secret pact with
Jordan's King Hussein in April 1987.
According to some observers, he also
outsmarted George Shultz when the
U.S. Secretary of State became con-
vinced that the Peres-Hussein pact
was the only game in town.
But while Shamir has held the
ideological line over the occupied ter-
ritories, he has shown himself to be
unimaginative and incapable of in-
itiating any sort of movement that
could move the stalemate with the
Palestinians off dead-center.
At age 73, he is also beset by
challenges to his authority — likely
to intensify after the elections — par-
ticularly from party strongman Ariel
Sharon and Sephardic superstar
David Levy. (It is unlikely that
Shamir's own choice for successor,
former ambassador to Washington
Moshe Arens, will win sufficient sup-
port within the party for the top job.)
Both parties, which took the sel-
ection of candidates away from the
party bosses in their smoke-filled
rooms, have "democratized" the
process and are presenting the voters
with an array of bright, new faces.
In this, the Likud has seized the
initiative with two major vote-
catchers — Benny Begin, son of the
charismatic former party leader, and
Binyamin Netanyahu, articulate
former Ambassador to the United Na-
tions, who made a powerful showing
among the party faithful during the
selection process.
Labor's new candidates do not
have the same luster — some believe
that the party had shot itself in the
foot when it dropped respected elder
statesman Abba Eban — but the
Labor list does indicate a determined
effort to shed the party of its image
as the home of Ashkenazi elitism.



Notable among the Labor new-
corners is the Moroccan-born Mayor of
Ashkelon, Eli Dayan (no relation to
the late Defense Minister), and Eli
Ben-Menachem, of Indian origin, who
has emerged from Israel's slum
neighborhoods as a powerful national
Another card in Labor's efforts to
penetrate the development towns and
win back some of the Sephardim (who
deserted to Likud en masse in the
1977 election) is Nissim Zvilli, who
was narrowly beaten by Simcha
Dinitz earlier this year for the post of
chairman of World Zionist Organiza-
tion and Jewish Agency.
It is likely, however, to take more
than one election to change the deep-
ly entrenched image of a party that
is associated with power and
With little to separate Labor and
Likud, much attention is now focused
on the smaller parties — on both the
left and the right — which are ex-
pected to benefit handsomely from
the continuing paralysis of the two
major blocs.
According to the polls, the hea-
viest gains (about six seats each) will
be made by the right-wing Thhiya Par-
ty, led by former Science Minister
Yuval Ne'eman, and the Citizens'
Rights Movement (CRM), led by
Shulamit Aloni, long-running

mediagenic star of the left.
During the past four years, both
parties opted to go into opposition
rather than join the unholy Labor-
Likud alliance. From that position,
they could retain their ideological
purity and attempt to keep their
respective big brothers in the national
unity government honest.
There are differences between
Tehiya and Likud, on the one hand,
and CRM and Labor on the other, but
these are generally paper-thin and ef-
fectively theoretical.
If Labor or Likud does manage to
cobble together a narrow-based coali-
tion after the election, it will be with
the support of these more radical off-
shoots, whose support for the govern-
ment would be critical to its survival
and whose voice would, therefore, be
greatly enhanced.
It is also unlikely that either of
the major blocs would be able to form
a government without the support of
at least some of the religious parties,
and they could throw their weight
either way.
The National Religious Party has
taken a sudden lurch to the right and,
in the process, it has enjoyed
something of a rebirth in popular ap-
peal. It probably would not join a
Labor government that was commit-
ted to negotiating peace on the basis
of a territorial withdrawal.

Also Running . . .

No fewer than 27 parties (now
that the Supreme Court has upheld
the ban on Rabbi Meir Kahane's
Kach Party) will contest the coming
elections in Israel. And they repre-
sent an extremely broad, and
sometimes bizarre, spectrum of
Israeli life.
Among them are eight religious
parties, mostly the progeny of the
National Religious Party, Agudat
Yisrael and Shas.
There is also a host of small,
narrow-interest, fringe parties.
• Derech Eretz (Good Manners),
a one-man party led by Tal Orbach,
is aimed at stopping Israelis
pushing in bus lines, shouting in the
shuk (marketplaces) and generally
behaving as if they were a bunch of
Knesset members.
• Lema'an Hamoledet (For the
Homeland) is another one-man par-
ty which should get at least a con-
solation prize for perseverance. Its

founder and sole member, Indian im-
migrant Benzy Koren, is fighting his
third election and has sold virtual-
ly everything he owns to finance his
• The Tarshish Party is led by
Moshe Duek, originally from Iraq,
who spent 15 years in prison for
throwing a hand grenade from the
Knesset visitors' gallery in 1957
which wounded Prime Minister
David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and
three other ministers.
• Moledet (Homeland), led by
Reserve Gen. Rehavam Ze'evi, now
director of a museum in Tel Aviv, is
taken rather more seriously than
most of the other small parties.
Ze'evi is a national figure whose cen-
tral plank is the "transfer" of
Palestinians to Jordan (or anywhere
else). With Meir Kahane's Kach Par-
ty banned as racist, Zeevi could pick
up at least some of his burgeoning
sup port.

On the other hand, Labor may be
expected to pick up support from
Meimad, the recently established cen-
trist religious party — if, indeed, the
new party manages to win any seats.
The support of other religious par-
ties, particularly Agudat Yisrael and
its Sephardi counterpart, Shas, is up
for grabs and would, quite simply, go
to the party that made the best offer
— both in terms of financial aid to
their educational institutions and to
broader religious observance.

Arab voters could have a
decisive influence on the
election outcome — but
many will not vote at all.

This poses a special challenge to
Labor, which is unlikely to win, and
hold, the loyalty of the CRM while
simultaneously bowing to demands
by the religious parties for, say,
greater Sabbath observance or an
amendment to the Law of Return,
which would withdraw recognition
from non-Orthodox converts.
With the major blocs so evenly
balanced, the Arab voters — who
account for 12 percent of the elec-
torate — could have a decisive
In fact, the vast majority — about
60 percent, according to a recent poll
conducted for the Labor Party — will
throw away their votes by opting for
the two major non-Zionist parties of
the far left (the Communists and the
Progressive List for Peace) or not
voting at all, a trend that has been
reinforced by the intifada.
Labor, which had been the largest
recipient of Arab votes among the ma-
jor blocs, also stands to lose many of
its traditional supporters to the left-
wing Mapam Party and to the
Citizens' Rights Movement, as well as
to the newly formed Democratic Arab
Party, led by Israeli Arabeducation
specialist Abdel Wahab Daroushe, a
former Labor Knesset member.
Daroushe broke with the party
earlier this year after expressing
vehement opposition to the policies
introduced by Labor Defense Minister
Yitzhak Rabin for coping with the in-
Indeed, all the talk about the
election inevitably returns to the in-
tifada. And with neither of the two
big parties willing to open up the
debate, Israeli voters are likely to
deny either a clear mandate to rule
Israel for the next four years.

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