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Government Crisis in Israel; General Zionists Quit Cabinet

The Israel Government was plunged into a new crisis today when the four General Zionist Ministers handed their resignations to Premier David Ben Gurion, thus bringing to an end the five-month old Laborite centrist coalition.

The immediate reason for the resignations was that the Mapai Party council had overruled a General Zionist demand, supported by Premier David Ben Gurion, that only the Israeli flag be flown in all schools in the country and that only the national anthem be sung by schoolchildren. The rightwing Socialist Mapai council voted 60 to 21 to permit the flying of a red flag and the singing of the “Internationally” at schools where a majority of the parents of the pupils request it.

The Mapai council acted last night. This morning the centrist Ministers — Trade and Industry, Dr. Peretz Bernstein; Interior, Israel Rokach; Health, Joseph Serlin; and Communications, Joseph Saphir — called on Premier Ben Gurion to deliver an ultimatum that either the Mapai reverses its stand or they leave the Cabinet. Later in the day, they submitted their resignations in writing, as required by law.

It was learned that the Progressive Party deputies in the Knesset had delegated their leader, Justice Minister Dr. Pinchas Rosen, to see Mr. Ben Gurion and explore the possibilities of a compromise which would restore the status quo. If the Progressives find that no compromise is possible, they will then consider whether to remain in the Cabinet with the Mapai.

Meanwhile, Yitzhar Harari, a Progressive deputy, expressed surprise that the Mapai was ready to throw the government into a crisis in the “political, security and economic situation in which the state is now.” He predicted that if the Mapai would accept no compromise the Progressives — a centrist party which has often sided with the Mapai–would leave the Cabinet, perhaps even this week. The Mapai council was scheduled to meet tonight to consider the new situation.

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