JERUSALEM (Aug. 22)
In a continuation of his week-long consultations aimed at the formation of a broad-based coalition government for Israel, Premier David Ben Gurion today met for three hours with Dr. Peretz Bernstein, former Minister of Trade, and Israel Rokach, Mayor of Tel Aviv, both leaders of the General Zionist Party.
The centrists reportedly told Mr. Ben Gurion that they are ready to join in any government which cooperates with private and collective enterprises on a basis of equality. The Premier accepted this condition, stating that this was an established principle of his last government and would continue to be the keystone of any future Cabinet he headed.
The main issue seems to bet he number and type of portfolios assigned to the General Zionist Party, second largest in the country. The final number await the exact make-up of the government, but it is known that the centrists want at least one major post–either Finance, in view of the persistent reports that Eliezer Kaplan will be forced to retire soon because of ill health, or a revitalized Ministry of Trade and Industry with power over economic controls, licensing of industries and apportionment of foreign exchange. These last functions are currently in the hands of the Finance Ministry.
Mr. Ben Gurion is said to be more favorably inclined toward granting the General Zionists the Trade and Industry Ministry than Finance. The centrists also indicated a willingness to join a coalition including the leftwing Socialist Mapam Party on condition that neither the present economic nor foreign policy of the government is changed “sharply.”
Meanwhile, Ben Gurion’s Mapai Party and the pro-Soviet Mapam Party have appointed a Joint committed to study foreign policy with the view of the two parties agreeing on a minimum program. This is the outgrowth of a series of parleys between Ben Gurion and Mapam leaders last week and yesterday. The two groups are expected to confer again later this week.
Ben Gurion also conferred with Mizrachi leaders yesterday. The chief obstacle still remains the question of religious education, over which the first Israel Cabinet fell and new elections were held July 31.