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July 27, 1990 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-07-27

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

INSIGHT

ZE'EV CHAFETS

Israel Correspondent

L

ast Sunday Shimon
Peres, the self-
described "old political
warhorse," won a stunning
upset victory over his
longtime Labor Party rival,
Yitzhak Rabin.
In a leadership showdown
in the party's Central Com-
mittee, Peres' forces receiv-
ed 54 percent of the votes to
Rabin's 46.
"We came expecting to
lose with honor," said Peres'
chief of staff, Nissim Zvilli.
"I never even dreamed about
a result like this." The latest
Peres-Rabin contest had
been looming ever since
Peres failed to set up a
government coalition,
following the dissolution of
the Government of National
Unity, last March.
Spurred by public opinion
polls that showed him to be
Israel's most popular
politican, and by the support
of most of Labor's Knesset
Members, Rabin mounted a
direct challenge. Virtually
all the pundits and party in-
siders expected him to win.
Observers here credit
Peres' emotional appeal to
the Central Committee for
tipping the scales. In a deep-
ly felt, brilliantly delivered
speech, Peres attacked
Rabin for undermining his
credibility and playing into
the hands of the Likud, and
called on the party not to
depose him.
"We saw a man fighting
for his life," said a Com-
mittee member. "It's hard to
turn your back on someone
who's begging for support."
By contrast, many of the
party activists found Rabin's
speech dull and, at times,
almost incoherent. "He
seemed bored by the whole
thing," said the Committee
member.
Following the voting, the
two rivals exchanged a per-
functory handshake, and
each called for party unity.

Shimon Peres:
Fought for his life.

Yitzhak Rabin:
Some thought he seemed bored.

Skirmishing

Shimon Peres' unexpected victory over the
popular Yitzhak Rabin was just a preliminary
battle between the two veteran politicians.

A euphoric Peres said that
he had "fallen in love all
over again" with his party,
and praised the loyalty of
the rank-and-file, which he
contrasted with the defec-
tions and-lack of faith shown
by many of his erstwhile
senior party supporters.
Publicly Peres vowed not
to punish the defectors, but
he made it clear that he in-
tended to reward his loyal-
ists. He particularly singled
out Zvilli, for whom the vic-
tory was a major political
step forward.
Still, despite the unity
rhetoric, most experts here
believe that Sunday's elec••
tion was merely a
preliminary skirmish in
what could well become the
most bitter chapter in the
ongoing rivalry between
Rabin and Peres — a rivalry
that has plagued Labor since
the two men first fought for
leadership in the mid-'70s.
Both are already preparing
for future skirmishes.
On Monday, Rabin con-
vened his supporters, who
decided to remain united as
a faction. Moreover, Rabin
made it clear that he had no
intention of stepping down
as the party's second-in-
command.
"My status as number two
does not depend on Peres'

decision to grant it or not,"
he said. "I'm number two on
the Labor list, and besides,
my public standing and
record are what will deter-
mine [my position in the par-
ty]."
Although Rabin lost Sun-
day's election, his supporters

"You have to give
him [Peres] credit.
Everybody wrote
him off, but he
came back. I don't
like his ideas, but
he's a fighter, and I
respect that."— A
Likud supporter

point out that the 46 percent
he received represents a 50
percent rise from his tradi-
tional strength, estimated
until recently at about one
third of the Central Com-
mittee.
On the other hand, many
of Rabin's supporters are al-
ready beginning to edge
away from the former
Defense Minister. Several,
including Members of
Knesset Uzi Bar-Am and
Benyamin Ben Eliazer, have
announced or strongly
hinted that they will run for

the top spot in the next elec-
tion.
Peres, too, met with his
supporters on Monday. At
that meeting, satisfaction
mixed with realism about
the challenge to his leader-
ship. Peres is on record as
favoring a party primary to
determine who will lead
Labor in the next national
election, scheduled for 1992.
Although he has yet to an-
nounce his decision, it is
widely assumed that Peres
will be a candidate.
This prospect is not uni-
versally popular, even
among Peres' own sup-
porters. In an interview with
the daily Yediot Ahronot,
Nissim Zvilli called on Peres
to step down and make way
for a younger generation of
candidates.
"In my opinion, both of
them [Peres and Rabin]
should become the Willy
Brandts of the Labor Party,
not because they lack abil-
ity, but because another con-
test between them would be
disastrous," he said.
Zvilli proposed that Peres
become the "spiritual
leader" of the party.
The call for Peres and
Rabin to step down was also
sounded by other prominent
party figures, some of whom
have already announced

their own candidacies. Aside
from Ben Eliazer and Bar
Am, they include former
Minister of Energy Moshe
Shahal and Member of
Knesset Ora Namir, both of
whom have already thrown
their hats into the ring; as
well as probable contenders
Gad Ya'akobi and former
army chief-of-staff
Mordechai Gur.
Should the primary idea —
which represents a depar-
ture from the smoke-filled-
room balloting of previous
years — actually mate-
rialize, the field will be a
crowded one.
The results of the Peres-
Rabin contest are also being
closely monitored by the
Likud. Prime Minister Yit-
zhak Shamir announced
that he had no personal in-
terest in the outcome, but
many Likudniks were dis-
appointed by the result.
In the past, Rabin has been
a strong supporter of the
Government of National
Unity, and some Shamir
supporters hoped that his
victory would set the stage
for a renewed partnership
between the two major par-
ties.
Moreover, Peres is con-
sidered more dovish than his
rival, and thus more likely
to lead Labor toward a more
aggressive, left-wing opposi-
tion stance in the coming
months.
Whatever the future holds
for Labor, Peres' victory is
being hailed here, even by
opponents, as a personal
triumph.
"You have to give him
credit," said a Tel Aviv man
who normally votes Likud.
"Everybody wrote him off,
but he came back. I don't
like his ideas, but he's a
fighter, and I respect that."
This was the view in some
parts of the Rabin camp as
well. "It was a great per-
sonal triumph for Peres,"
said Uzi Bar Am. "It was his
personal victory, and no one
can take that away from
him." ❑

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

41

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