TEL AVIV (Feb. 19)
Premier David Ben Gurion is continuing his personal efforts to enlarge the government coalition and solve the Cabinet crisis, despite the poor state of his health.
This week-end he held a conference with General Zionist leaders Israel Rokach, the Mayor of Tel Aviv, and with Peretz Bernstein, former Minister of Trade and Industry. At the parley, the General Zionists put forth the demand that a general election be held this year. The Premier replied that negotiations for the General Zionists entering the Cabinet could continue, despite their demand for a general election. After this meeting, Dr. Bernstein and Mayor Rokach met with Finance Minister Eliezer Kaplan, who is Acting Premier, and who handles the detailed negotiations in which Mr. Ben Gurion cannot participate because of his health.
The Mapam Party’s political committee this week-end decided to convene its 350-man party council within a fortnight to decide on whether to continue negotiations with the Mapai over the question of joining the coalition government. The political committee also decided to submit the question to party branches throughout the country.
This move was interpreted in political circles here as a sign that the coalition talks are not progressing as well as had proviously been reported. It is felt that if the talks were proceeding satisfactorily, the left-wing party’s committee would have gone from domestic and foreign policy discussions to security questions and plans for a redistribution of portfolios.
The Cabinet crisis continues in Israel despite a meeting Friday between Premier Ben Gurion and Ministor of the Interior Meshe Shapiro, representing the Religious Bloc, which has threatened to resign over a dispute involving religious education in the immigrant camps. Further developments, of extreme importance in relation to the coalition government, are expected for the next few weeks.
A national convention of the Fightere Party–formerly the Stern Group–today decided that it will not support the Israel Government in its dealings with the U.N. Trusteeship Council over the internationalization of Jerusalem nor in its negotiations with the Government of Jordan for a peace treaty. The delegates also denounced the Western Powers “who supply arms to the Arab countries in order to compel Israel to relinquish its independence and surrender to their protection.”