General Zionists Break off Talks on Joining Israel Government

Negotiations between the General Zionist and Mapai Parties for broadening of the Israel Government coalition were broken off here late last night by the centrists. This action was made known to the Labor Party in a letter from Dr. Peretz Bernstein, chairman of the General Zionist Party, to Premier David Ben Gurion.

At a press conference called last night by the centrist party, a General Zionist spokesman explained that the main issue over which the talks broke down was that of the attitude of the two parties toward the Histadrut. The spokesman said his party did not oppose any form of private or collective initiative, but that the development of Histadrut enterprises, under Mapai leadership had reached dimensions which were “against the workers’ interests, and sometimes even against the state’s interests.” He insisted that the General Zionist Party wanted full equality for all forms of enterprise and full development of the country’s economy to assure economic recovery.

The spokesman charged that the Mapai Party had entered into negotiations with the centrists only to “frighten” the religious groups who walked out of the coalition. But, he added, the General Zionist Party had agreed to the talks because it could not pass up any opportunity to work out a program which would improve conditions in Israel.

Dr. Bernstein’s letter to the Premier charged that when he attempted to pin the Premier down to definite proposals on which the General Zionist Party would enter the Cabinet, the Premier refused to commit himself and “the General Zionists saw the door to widening the coalition closed.”

Dr. Bernstein asserted that though his party felt that “administrative centralization of trade unions, economic enterprises, and social, cultural and educational institutions under one political direction” would not ease the tasks of the State, it had undertaken the coalition talks on the expectation that a broadened government base would guarantee “equality” of all forms of enterprise and would thus eliminate the “negative aspects of centralization.”

Meanwhile, Premier David Ben Gurion has pledged to reply to Dr Bernstein’s letter and is reported hard at work on a draft. He is also expected to address a meeting of the Progressive Party’s central council Thursday. The party, which has started listing its conditions for joining the government coalition, is said to be waiting for the Premier’s speech before concluding work on its program.

Rabbi Irving Miller, president of the Zionist Organization of America, who is currently in Israel, and Dr. Emanuel Neumann, head of the Jewish Agency economic department in Jerusalem, refused comment on the breaching of the talks. They added they might reveal their attitude on the situation at a mass meeting called for tomorrow evening at Z.O.A. House here.

The national council of the Agudath Israel, which recently walked out of the government coalition, will meet tomorrow to decide whether to remain in “peaceful opposition” to the government or to open a fight against the coalition all along the line.

(The American Mizrachi Organization of America this week-end issued a statement expressing regret that the Agudah parties left the government coalition in Israel. The statement stressed that the Mizrachi movement will “oppose any effort to break the unity of the Jewish people by anti-Zionist propaganda. We will do everything possible to avoid a crisis in the government at the present time in the hope that Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, who has previously demonstrated understanding of the righteousness of our religions demands and the dangers of a kulturkampf, will also recognize the truth of our demands and will use every opportunity to bring about a satisfactory solution of the present difficulties.”)

NEXT STORY