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My role in Shulamit Aloni's election to the Knesset


Losing the 1973 elections
Uri Avnery Social activist
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This war came in the middle of an election campaign. We at HaOlam HaZeh – Ko'ach Hadash had already printed campaign material and all sorts of things for the elections. And I spoke and appeared in various places, and suddenly the war broke out. The war ended, the election campaign continued – it hadn't been postponed. Golda [Meir] refused to postpone the election, a smart decision on her part because public opinion had not yet recovered from the war. 

[Q] She resigned few months later in any case so it did not matter. 

Yes, later on – we will get to it. You cannot skip in history.

I was in the middle of an election campaign. What should I do? I decided that since all the military were at the front − the withdrawal didn't take place immediately and everyone was still sitting on the other side and along the banks of the [Suez] Canal − I would target our campaign at the soldiers which was a mistake. I appeared at meetings and distributed leaflets and all that, but we didn't pass the threshold. It was a very heavy blow. First of all because I was convinced that we didn't deserve it as everything we had said had come true. We were right about everything that we had said, primarily about the fact that there would be a war. We treated our voters with respect and we fulfilled everything that we had promised them.We had done everything that a single faction could do. Did we talk abouit Shalom Cohen? 

[Q] Yes, we talked about him yesterday. 

We talked about him. Good. So what happened? Why had we lost in such an overwhelming and unexpected way? I think it was for a variety of reasons. The first reason, as far as I could see, was that they had simply got used to us. I had been in the Knesset for eight consecutive years, I had been present at all the sessions, I took endless initiatives, I gave countless speeches, and people had become used to the fact that I belonged in the Knesset. Afterwards, I was told by at least one person if not by more, 'If I would even have imagined that you would not pass the threshold, I would have voted for you – that goes without saying! But I was so sure that you would get back into the Knesset that it never crossed my mind'. That was one thing. Number two: two new factions emerged one headed by Shulamit Aloni, the other by Meir Pa'il called Moked. And a lot of people said, 'Uri Avnery is already there so let's give our vote to someone new to also get in'. And our votes, some of our supporters' votes, went either to Moked or to Shulamit Aloni. And there was a third reason: the anger at Golda's government was so intense that they wanted to vote for someone who could depose her. Uri Avnery could not oust Mapai so they voted for Likud; our votes went straight to Likud. And all this together and maybe more… and of course the split with Shalom Cohen to a large extent destroyed the uniqueness of our faction − the absolute spotlessness of our faction... 'So in this faction too there are divisions, we don't want that...' All of this together caused us to lose. Not only did we not get in but we lost some 5000 votes, I think, and we didn't reach the threshold, which was 1%.

ואני עומד באמצע מערכת בחירות. מה לעשות? החלטתי: כל הצבא בחזית, הרי לא הייתה נסיגה מיד כי הם ישבו כולם מעבר לתעלה ולאורך התעלה, אז ריכזתי את התעמולה שלנו לחיילים, שזו הייתה טעות. והופעתי באספות וכרוזים וכל זה, ולא עברנו את אחוז החסימה. זו הייתה מכה מאוד קשה. קודם כל מפני שהייתי משוכנע שזה לא מגיע לנו. אל״ף: כל מה שאמרנו התגשם. צדקנו בכל מה שאמרנו, ובעיקר על זה שתהיה מלחמה. התייחסנו לבוחרים שלנו בכבוד ומילאנו את כל מה שהבטחנו להם. הצלחנו כמה שסיעת יחיד יכולה. אז מה קרה? למה הפסדנו בצורה כל כך מדהימה ובלתי צפויה? אני חושב שהייתה הצטברות של סיבות. הסיבה הראשונה בעיניי הייתה שפשוט התרגלו אלינו. שמונה שנים רצופות הייתי בכנסת, הייתי נוכח בכל הישיבות, נקטתי אינספור יוזמות, נאמתי אינספור נאומים, ואנשים התרגלו אלי שאני שייך לכנסת. אמר לי - לפחות אחד אם לא יותר אח"כ – "לו הייתי חולם על זה שאתה לא תעבור את אחוז החסימה הייתי מצביע בשבילך, מובן מאליו! אבל הייתי כל כך בטוח שאתה תיכנס לכנסת בחזרה שבכלל לא עלה על דעתי". זה דבר אחד. בי״ת: הופיעו שתי סיעות חדשות, של שולמית אלוני ושל מאיר פעיל, “מוקד". והרבה אנשים אמרו: "אורי אבנרי כבר ישנו שמה, בואו ניתן את הקול למישהו חדש שגם ייכנס”. והקולות שלנו, חלק מהקולות שלנו הלך או ל"מוקד" או לשולמית אלוני שתי מפלגות שמאל חדשות בזירה הפוליטית בישראל], והייתה סיבה שלישית: הזעם על הממשלה ועל גולדה היה כל כך רב, שרצו להצביע בעד מישהו שיכול להדיח אותה. אורי אבנרי לא יכול להדיח את מפא"י אז הלכו להצביע "ליכוד", הקולות שלנו הלכו ל"ליכוד" ישר. וכל זה יחד ואולי עוד, וכמובן הפילוג עם שלום כהן הרס במידה רבה את הייחודיות של הסיעה שלנו – הניקיון המוחלט של הסיעה שלנו. "אז גם בסיעה הזאת יש פילוגים וזה, לא רוצים…". כל זה יחד שגרם לכך שהפסדנו, לא רק שלא עלינו, הפסדנו איזה 5,000 קולות אני חושב ולא הגענו לאחוז החסימה, שהיה אחוז אחד.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: 1973, Shulamit Aloni, Meir Pa’il

Duration: 5 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017