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Israel's Likud on the Defensive

Labor Party gains ground in election campaign as ruling party's internal rifts take toll

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THE differences may have been patched up, but the wounds have not healed in Israel's ruling Likud Party.

And although Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has put an end to an ugly row with his foreign minister, David Levy, the affair has wrong-footed the Likud as Israel's election campaign gets into high gear this week.

The opposition Labor Party, on the other hand, goes into the campaign with a new leader, Yitzhak Rabin, and a list of parliamentary candidates offering broad appeal to the electorate, say Labor activists and opinion pollsters.

"The way it seems now, Labor is on the offensive and the Likud is on the defensive," says Hebrew Univeristy political scientist Yitzhak Galnoor. "If the trend continues, it looks as if we are in for a change of government."

Mr. Levy withdrew his resignation from the Cabinet on Sunday, after last minute concessions by Mr. Shamir persuaded him to stay on. Levy has been promised he will remain as foreign minister and deputy prime minister if the Likud forms the next government, and that he will be able to name one other Cabinet member.

Levy also won a pledge that his followers will be given "just representation" on all party bodies and parliamentary committees.

After holding out against these demands for several weeks, Shamir reportedly told colleagues he had granted them "in the shadow of the approaching elections."

Levy's accusations of prejudice in the Likud against his fellow Sephardim - Jews of oriental origins - had carried with them an implied threat to bolt the party, and without the Sephardic vote, Likud's chances at the June 23 elections would have been minimal.

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