The Massive Challenge to Labour Hegemony

Newspaper: Jewish Herald
posted on:
8 In mar 1977
Democracy , Election System , Political Parties - Gahal, Likud, Mapai. Government , Knesset , Opposition , Individuals - Yitzchak Rabin
Begin accuses Prime Minister Rabin of governing from a place of Anti-Semitism, rather than love for Israel. He argues that having more Likud members in the Knesset would be beneficial. He also acknowledges the importance of parties working together for the good of the Israeli people.
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"The Massive Challenge to Labour Hegemony"


WHAT ARE the plans of the minority Government Prime Minister, Mr. Rabin, for May 1977? What are his secret hopes?

"Circles close to the Prime Minister" have given the public some idea.

It appears that Mr. Rabin is scornful of the party of Yigal Yadin. In "delicate" language he has called it (or him) "a pedlar who finds it difficult to maintain a grocery shop and is arrogantly trying to set up a supermarket – which, as it turns out, is small and cheap."

Mr. Rabin is, however, worried about the Likud's challenge to Labour's "hegemony." The Likud, he says, is the Alignment's "main rival and ideological opponent."

So what is his plan to "deal with the Likud?" His answer is simple: Break it up, wipe it out – and the "hegemony" of Labour will be safe.

These are his words: "If we reduce the Likud's Knesset representation from 39 to between 33 and 35, Begin won't carry on, and without Begin there is no Likud. If he goes there is a chance of altering the party map."

So much depends on one man? If he "goes", the whole party "map" can be altered? And I never knew I was so influential in the state mapping department.

Such a torrent of folly I have not read for a long time. In the first place, there certainly will be a Likud "without Begin." Maybe the Prime Minister has got his names and parties mixed up. Perhaps he thinks there can be no Alignment without Rabin. That could well be. Mapam continues to shatter the Alignment while keeping to it. But Mr. Rabin should not transfer his own party feelings to me. I have not the slightest doubt that the Likud will continue to be a central factor in the life of the nation without me. I am not satisfied that the Alignment could have been maintained without Mr. Rabin as Labour's leader.


In the second place, as far as I am aware, my plans for the near future do not include any "going" – except to the nation to ask for its support to make the Likud the leading party which will be called upon to form the next Government.

The nation will decide that issue, and we shall respect its decision. That has been our way since we renewed our national independence – and I think it will be agreed that we have contributed not a little to the permeation of democracy among the people.

The four years ahead will be decisive for the national future, both the political-security sphere and in that of the upbuilding of the society and the economy. It is in vain that those who dislike me, like the worthy Mr. Rabin, look forward to my "going" at this fateful time.

No. Together with my colleagues I shall try to help our people. I will continue to serve it.


Mr. Rabin has left no doubt that his strategy is to splint the Likud. He is not the only one with that idea.

Isn't it strange that the leadership and propagandists of the Labour Alignment should assert that the shattering of a party would be in the interests of democracy, while at the same time urging a change in the electoral system which would compel splinter groups unite in one party for the benefit of Israel's democracy?

Well, even without that electoral change, the electorate is faced with a choice of major political groupings, one of which is the Likud.


Its parliamentary and public strength, its status as an alternative to the party of the "hegemony", is the most massive that has been presented in this country for the past 45 years.

It would seem that all democrats should welcome this development, which enables the public to make a clean-cut choice. But the hypocrisy which degrades so much of the Alignment finds expression, too, in its attitude to the Likud. A BIG BLOC HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED – so it must be splintered. It will be to the voter's benefit if Herut goes to the polls alone, the Liberals, alone, and La'am, alone.

If the "party map" could be changed like that, there would be rejoicing in the Rabin camp.

Incidentally, Mr. Rabin's inner hopes reflect those of others like the Independent Liberals. We well know of all their attempts, since the establishment of Gahal (the Herut-Liberal bloc) to separate the two parties and to attract Likud Knesset Member to what they called their Liberal Centre. But the contrary has happened.


One of the four MKs remaining to the Independent Liberals, Dr. Hillel Seidel, has joined the Likud, which is, in fact, the National-Liberal Centre in Israel.

The extremism of the Independent Liberals in their submission to the Alignment and in their preaching that Judea and Samaria should be delivered to a foreign regime has not helped them.

Now the ILP stands at the crossroads, with three uncertain mandates, wondering what has happened. For twelve years they waited for the Liberal Party to tear up its agreement with Herut and join them – and now what has happened?

The lesson is clear: Forces must not be shattered. They must be consolidated – and one need not glory in the extremism of defeatism. There is no cleverness in that. In a word: The ideal is to strive, jointly, to help the people of Israel, who are in need of so much help at this time.

As for the Alignment, it is also trying to signal to our Liberal colleagues. It hints that they could take the place of the NRP as Coalition partners.

The Alignment feels has no freedom of manoueuvre because of the Likud's existence. If only the parties making up the Likud could be split, then under the "inspiration" of Mr. Rabin that longed-for freedom of manoeuvre would be restored.

It is apparent that Mr. Rabin has suddenly found himself longing for those far-off days when the Mapai slogan was "Without Herut and Maki (the Communists)."

In the last years of his life Ben Gurion himself abandoned that slogan – and Mrs. Meir later made an effort to induce a member of the Herut Movement to join the Government…and without any Rafi member either.

The differences of opinion between the various camps in Israel are serious and fundamental. But there is no one who wants to return us to the habits of days gone by – except for a few, including Mr. Rabin, apparently.

This transitional Prime Minister wants to rake up the past. In the place of love of Israel, he seems to want hatred of Jews. A worrying phenomenon.

Fortunately, he cannot succeed. The Alignment, under his leadership, is steadily in decline, as all can see. In the economy there is confusion. In policy – a marking time. In the Knesset, the Government is in Opposition. There is no confidence in it and it has no credibility. Day by day the signs of splintering becoming more apparent. Opinion polls forecast the almost complete defeat of the Alignment. Mr. Rabin urges: "Don't be upset by them." It is not difficult to imagine what he would have said had they forecast the opposite.

Mr. Rabin is in a "mid-winter dream." He is likely to wake up – toppled.

Hatred is upsetting his lucidity. With the approach of the tenth anniversary of the Six Day War, he has expressed the opinion that the establishment of the Government of National Unity was a tragedy.

For whom?

For "the Party," naturally.

Let me quote his exact words: "A tragedy occurred for the party in 1965 when Mapai was split by the creation of Rafi and, subsequently, when the party was forced to include Rafi and Gahal in the Government of National Unity through the clever processes of Begin, who, through skilful manoeuvring got Gahal into the Government of National Unity…"

I am really not worthy of such compliments. Regrettably, I cannot always return them…Here we have a former Chief of Staff and a present-day Prime Minister talking, and he cannot find any patriotic motive for the establishment of the Government of National Unity. It was all a manoeuvre to get Rafi and Gahal into the Cabinet. To his deep regret that manoeuvre succeeded and the Labour Party suffered…

My memory tells me otherwise. The enemy had surrounded us with mighty forces. Every day the steel ring tightened. A three-Power pact was established against us. Hundreds of thousands were mobilised…and waiting. The streets of Israel were empty. There was fear.

Representatives of the Opposition, Gahal and Rafi, were flown by helicopter to a session of the Ministerial Security Committee. The Chief of Staff, General Rabin, put forward a plan of action: "We will achieve certain territorial gains, but the Egyptian army will not be destroyed," he said.

I put a simple question: "If the Egyptian army is not destroyed, what will happen to those territorial gains? Couldn't the Egyptian army retake them in a counter-attack?"

The confusion in the chamber was an expression of the general fear. The Cabinet met and reached a dead-end, without taking a decision.

Then we strove to establish a Government of National Unity that would decide, do and save. Thank God our efforts succeeded. And when that Government of National Unity came into being – yes, with Gahal and Rafi! – the people's spirit was completely transformed.

And, as is well known, even the morale of the then Chief of Staff improved.

The army was enthusiastic.

Everything changed.

On Sunday, June 4, at a meeting of the Government, a decision was taken.

To call all that and more a clever political manoeuvre, without any patriotic motive, one needs a measure of blinkered vision and fair-weather friendship that is inconceivable.

If a private citizen had distorted the facts like that, he would be ostracized. When the man who was Chief of Staff then and is Prime Minister today engages in such illwill, what shall we say to him?

Perhaps it would be better to keep silent. But let us know that this people needs a Prime Minister who will lead it not through hatred of Jews, but by virtue of love of Israel.

(Translated from the Hebrew by Joe Kuttner)