Israelis have ben voting in local elections which could give an idea of the present political standing of Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
Israelis have ben voting in local elections which could give an idea of the present political standing of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Computer predictions indicated setbacks for Premier Begin, and the State television service said the opposition Labour Party had made significant gains.
SYNOPSIS: For the first time, municipal elections were held on a different date from that for national polls. For that reason, the results were being closely watched for an indication of Mr. Begin's popularity. The Prime Minister has been in office for 18 months, and the Opposition Labour alignment was hoping for a return of the popularity they lost in the 1977 General Election. On the other hand, successes for the Likud bloc coalition governing the country would be taken as a sign of strong backing for Premier Begin.
Voters were encouraged to go to the polls by an extra day's holiday granted by the government, which was expected to result in a bigger vote than normal. The local elections are seen, most importantly, as a way of judging popular backing for a peace treaty with Egypt. Defence Minister Ezer Weizman was given new instructions by the Israeli Cabinet for this return to Washington to carry on peace talks. The Cabinet spent 12 hours discussing the treaty, but few details of the talks were released. Cabinet members did, however, approve a pullback of Israeli forces in the Sinai.
The pullback had already been agreed in the United States at Camp David, but it was the first time that the Israeli Cabinet had given its blessing. Under the agreement Israel will eventually return all of Sinai to the Egyptians. The local elections were expected to provided a useful barometer of how the negotiations are being received by the man in the street.