JERUSALEM (May. 26)
Premier David Ben Gurion will temporarily assume responsibility for the four ministries held by the General Zionist Cabinet members who resigned yesterday, he told a meeting of the Knesset. He will take over the Ministries of Interior, Communications, Trade and Health pending a decision by the Cabinet which met twice today to consider the situation.
Mr. Ben Gurion told the deputies that he would make an additional announcement to Parliament as matters develop and that if the House then chooses, it can hold a debate, as provided by law. Announcing the resignations of Dr. Peretz Bernstein, Israel Rokach, Joseph Saphir and Joseph Serlin, the Premier declared:
“I cannot complete my statement without expressing my deep regret over the resignation of four comrades and my deep concern over the results. I also wish to express my sincere thanks to those who resigned for their trust in me during the period we worked together.”
At a press conference today, Dr. Bernstein declared that he and the other centrist ministers would return only if the Mapai central committee changes its decision to permit the flying of the red flag, alongside the Israeli flag, and the singing of the “Internationals” in schools where a majority of the parents of the pupils request it.
RESIGNATION OF MINISTER OF EDUCATION REJECTED BY PREMIER
It was learned today that Education Minister Ben Zion. Dinur had submitted his resignation to the Premier over the same issue, but that Mr. Ben Gurion refused to accept it. It is understood that Prof. Dinur and Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, both Mapai leaders, are in agreement with Premier Ben Gurion in opposing the flying of red flags or the singing of the “Internationals” in state schools.
At the first of today’s Cabinet sessions, it was reported that Minister of Religion Moshe Shapira, a Hapoel Hamizrachi leader, suggested that the education program be postponed for a year to permit the various parties to come to some agreement over their differences. The proposal received no positive response in either the ranks of the Mapai or the General Zionists. The Mizrachi and the Mizrachi Laborites blames both the Mapai and the General Zionists for precipitating a crisis at “such a grave hour of national danger.”
Mapai leaders Mordecai Namir and Meir Argov conferred in Parliament today with Dr. Bernstein and Mr. Rokach to sound out the possibilities of reconstituting the coalition. The first contacts seemed fruitless. Newsmen were told that none of the proposals thus far made were acceptable to the General Zionists.
The general public seemed unaware of the full significance of the current Mapai-General Zionist dispute. All newspapers today devoted their lead stories to the new crisis, with the Haboker, organ of the General Zionist, approving the stand of the four Ministers who walked out of the Cabinet.
The left-wing press regard the red flag issue as a “pretext” for the General Zionists to quit the coalition in which they are unhappy over the unemployment tax and the foreign currency control policy. The moderate newspapers predict a change in the Mapai’s attitude and a patching-up of the quarrel.
For many decades the red flag and the “Internationals” have been a symbol of the Socialist orientation of Israel’s labor movement, particularly in the settlements. This has not been tied with the Communist movement. In fact, the Mapai Party members are flatly anti-Communist. However, for reasons of labor tradition and emotion the Mapai members wished to retain the red flag and the “Internationals” in the party schools which they are prepared to place under a unified state system of education.
DR. BERNSTEIN OUTLINES STAND OF THE GENERAL ZIONISTS
Dr. Bernstein, at his press conference, said that the General Zionists remained in the government although they had been obliged to accept a number of compromises on economic and financial policy which they felt were hardly justified by the situation. But, he went on, the General Zionists had continued to share responsibility for the government in the hope that despite the severe economic difficulties a gradual recovery could be accomplished.
The General Zionist saw in the proposed unified educational program a method of putting an end to a “school system of party-controlled and politically-inspired education, one of the fundamentals for uniting the population in a deeper understanding of common statehood,” he asserted. For the achievement of this and other important aims, his party was willing to sacrifice and wait, Dr. Bernstein stated. He pointed out that implementation of this program seemed assured, particularly since the Premier had vigorously supported the same program as the General Zionists.
The Mapai central committee’s action, Mr. Bernstein insisted, would mean perpetuation of the former party school system, probably in a more damaging form than before. Therefore, the General Zionists were leaving the Cabinet although they did so with full awareness of the grave consequences of their action. But, he emphasized, the General Zionist Ministers were convinced that to have acted otherwise “would have done the state and the people of Israel a most unforgivable disservice.”