35. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Vance in Geneva1

113933/Tosec 40315. Subject: Israeli Elections.

1. Embassy Tel Aviv believes that, with one-third of the Israeli vote in, Labor has sustained a stunning defeat while Likud is likely to emerge as Israel’s strongest party in the Knesset with 41 seats. In a conversation with the Operations Center at 0615 Paris time, Embassy Tel Aviv reported that the projected Israeli electoral results were:

Likud 41 seats

Labor 33

DMC 15

NRP 12

Rakah 5

Embassy Tel Aviv stressed the unprecedented nature of the electoral results, stating that neither Labor nor Likud seemed prepared for the upset.

2. Embassy Tel Aviv believes it likely that Likud will attempt to form a coalition government with the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC)2 and National Religious Party (NRP) but cautions that such a coalition, if formed, would be politically unstable because the [Page 266] DMC’s position on issue such as electoral reform differs markedly from that of Likud and the NRP. Embassy Tel Aviv does not exclude the possibility that a grand coalition may be formed.

3. Embassy Tel Aviv believes that two issues are significant factors in terms of explaining Labor’s poor showing at the polls:

  • —the uncertainty of current US/Israeli relations; and
  • —the recent flap over the arms transfer priority issue in the US Congress.3

Apparently, the Israeli electorate foresees hard times ahead and has prepared to batten down the hatches by taking a strong swing to the right.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770176–0415. Limited Official Use; Immediate. Drafted by D.P. Fotenhauer (S/S–O) and approved by Robert M. Perito (S/S–O) and Keith McCormick (S/S–O). Vance was in Geneva May 18–20 meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko. Most of their discussions were on arms control, but they discussed the Middle East on May 19. A memorandum of conversation is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material,Europe, USSR, and East/West, Box 17, 3/25/77–4/2/77 Vance Trip to Moscow: 5/10–31/77.
  2. Formed in 1976, the Democratic Movement for Change, known more popularly by the acronym DASH, represented centrist elements within the Israeli polity.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 34.