Ben Gurion Blames General Zionists for Breakdown of Talks

Premier David Ben Gurion charged tonight that the General Zionist Party had “slammed the door” on further negotiations looking to a broad coalition government for Israel and placed blame on the centrist group for breakdown of the talks.

In his reply to Dr. Peretz Bernstein. General Zionist leader, Mr. Ben Gurion rejected General Zionist complaints that the breakdown was the result of his failure to provide definite proposals on which the General Zionists could consider entrance into the government. He denied that he had made continuation of the talks impossible.

“My door is never closed to Zionists,” he said in his letter to Dr. Bernstein. “Zionist unity in Israel and the Jewish nation throughout the world is essential and I shall continue my efforts to bring unity nearer.”

The premier referred to the main point at issue in the negotiations-the status of the three great cooperative enterprises of the Histadruth, the Israel Labor Federation-and said that the State was unable now to become either capitalist or socialist exclusively. Both sectors, he said, were essential to the fulfillment of Zionism. He said his policy was to encourage private and cooperative enterprises and he was trying to achieve social conciliation.

He recalled his three talks with Dr. Bernstein and said he had tried to explain that as long as the General Zionists refused to see the three cooperatives-Solel Boneh. Tnuva and Hamashbir Hamerkazi-as Zionist enterprises which assist the development of the State, “as I see every private enterprise in this regard, they (the General Zionists) are not committed to social conciliation which is the basis for cooperation and unity in the Zionist camp.”

PREMIER CONVINCED CENTRISTS PREPARED TO JOIN GOVERNMENT

The premier emphasized that conciliation in the religious, cultural, social and economic fields was most essential. The time, he warned, had not yet come for final decisions on these questions.

Turning to the immediate question of General Zionist participation in a broader coalition. Mr. Ben Gurion said he was still convinced that the centist group was prepared to join the government but “participation in Government responsibility does not mean readiness to accept portfolios.” The basis for coalition, he said, must be a clarification on the basic problems.

On receipt of the Ben Gurion letter. Dr. Bernstein told newsmen tonight that the premier’s reply convinced him that Mr. Ben Gurion’s approach to the General Zionists had not been aimed at broadening the government coalition since bi-party talks aimed at a concrete goal and not at basic principles. He said the premier had failed to reply to the questions asked of him and charged him with refusing to continue the talks and avoiding further meetings.

With breakdown of the Mapai Party-General Zionist negotiations for broadening the Government coalition, chief interest centered today on the Mapai talks with the small Progressive Party. This party has previously held the position that it could enter a coalition only if the General Zionists did so. Mr. Ben Gurion is expected to address the party’s central council this week. If the Progressives agree to come into the coalition, it is expected that they will receive one seat in the cabinet.

Meanwhile, the national conference of Agudath Israel, the religious party whose secession from the coalition brought about the present parliamentary “crisis,” heard Rabbi I.M. Lewin, former Minister of Social Welfare, declare today that the Agudists will go over into the opposition and “fight to achieve the rule of Israel by the principles of the Torah.”

Rabbi Lewin reviewed the reasons why the Agudists and the Agudah Workers had left the government. He promised that the Agudists, in their opposition in the Knesset, will vote only according to the laws of the Torah and their conscience.

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