JERUSALEM (Jan. 4)
Levi Eshkol, Finance Minister, was today named Acting Premier of Israel for the period during which Premier David Ben Gurion will be on vacation at Tiberias. Mr. Ben Gurion, however, will continue to carry out his functions as Defense Minister while he is on vacation, the Cabinet also decided.
Pinchas Lavon, Minister without portfolio, was named Acting Foreign Minister while Moshe Sharett is in Burma heading a Mapai delegation to a conference of Asiatic Socialist parties. The Cabinet decided to postpone the municiapl elections until a short time before the Parliamentary elections at the end of 1955.
The Ministers were also faced with the first conflict between the members of the two leading parties, the Mapai and General Zionists. Reports here said that friction had already arisen in the new Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, which was only organized a week ago, and that all decisions of major importance had been put aside pending today’s full Cabinet meeting.
Meanwhile, the economic situation seems to be worsening. Most price controls have been lifted, with more promised. Prices rose last week, including the price of gasoline, kerosene and electricity as well as foodstuffs. With the Histadrut pledged to hold off on wage increases, except for cost of living bonuses, real wages have dropped.
GOVERNMENT DETERMINED TO STABILIZE ISRAEL’S CURRENCY
An acute shortage of money is felt everywhere–in government offices, where employees are behind in salaries, in private concerns which have dismissed many workers, and in business, where the public has been restricting its purchases to essentials. Commenting on suggestions that the government print additional currency, Mr. Eshkol declared, in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that “under no circumstances” would the government print more money. Mr. Eshkol stressed that his immediate goal was to stabilize Israel’s currency, and that printing new currency would lead to widening of the present inflation.
The Ministerial Committee on Economic Affaire, which is headed by Mr. Lavon, has proposed the dismissal of several hundred employees of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry whose duties were abolished along with the lifting of controls from most of the economy. Additional paring and streamlining of government offices is being planned by this body. Meanwhile, some newspapers have suggested the amalgamation of various economic functions held by several different Munistries under a single Economics Ministry. The merging of the Ministries of Police, Religion and Welfare with the Ministry of Interior was also urged.