TEL AVIV (Feb. 20)
The fate of the Israel Cabinet will be decided tomorrow at an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet called today by Premier David Ben Gurion to act on the boycott of Cabinet sessions by three Orthodor Ministers who are protesting the present situation of religious education in the immigrant camps.
In a circular letter sent last night to every member of the Cabinet, the Premier stressed the unconditional character of his summons and insisted that every Minister, without exception, attend tomorrow’s meeting. He specifically stated that this meeting will deal exclusively with the principle of boycott within the government and with the attitude of the Orthodox Ministers, without touching on the substance of the religious education issue.
In a private talk with Moshe Shapiro, one of the Orthodox Ministers, the Premier made it clear that his religious colleagues could not consider themselves members of the Cabinet and at the same time boycott Cabinet meetings. He emphasized the importance of collective responsibility of the Cabinet, irrespective of whether certain issues are disagreeable to some Ministers. In that case, he pointed out, the dissatisfied Ministers must either how to the majority and continue to assume joint responsibility, or resign.
The Israel Premier was reported to have admitted that the problem of religious education in the immigrant camps was of highest importance and warranted close study. However, he believes that the problem should be discussed by the Cabinet and resents the demonstrative Cabinet boycott by the three members of the Religious Bloc.
BEN GURION WOULD BRING ISSUE TO PARLIAMENT; MAY ASK VOTE OF CONFIDENCE
In the circular letter Premier Ben Gurion clearly emphasized that if the Orthodox Ministers fail to attend the Cabinet session, he will immediately report the situation to the Parliament and will request that it take appropriate action. Privately, it was indicated that he may ask the Parliament for an immediate vote of confidence even at the risk of losing the support of the religious deputies.
The Premier also said in his letter that he is negotiating at present with the General Zionists and with the Mapam for the broadening of the Cabinet, but not at the expense of the Religious Bloc. He suggested that the Orthodox members of the Cabinet introduce in Parliament a motion of non-confidence rather than boycott Cabinet meetings at which questions of the highest importance to the state are being discussed.
The members of the Orthodox Bloc held an emergency meeting today to decide on further actions to be taken on the issue of religious education in the immigrants’ camps. It was decided at the meeting to continue the policy which is now in effect. It was also decided to send a delegation to Berl Locker, chairman of the Jewish Agency executive, to complain about “the aggressive and discriminatory attitude” of some of the Agency’s officials in the camps.