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Cabinet Coalition Endangered by Rift on Election Restrictions

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Premier Moshe Sharett’s coalition cabinet today faced a crisis when the General Zionists, the second largest party in the Israeli Parliament, threatened to vote independently, and thus bring about a situation under which measures proposed by the Cabinet may not receive the necessary parliamentary majority.

The General Zionists and Premier Sharett’s party, the Mapai, disagree on the timing for presenting to Parliament new changes in the election laws. Both the General Zionists and the Mapai had already agreed to the changes themselves. Under these alterations, only parties that poll a minimum of 4.2 percent of the total vote will be entitled to seat their members in the Parliament. The Mapai has now decided to delay introduction of this change for at least six months, or until a few months before the next general elections, due in the summer of 1955. The General Zionists want to propose the legislation to the present Parliament now.

The introduction of the proposal, aimed to eliminate the small parties, was one of the conditions which the General Zionists stipulated prior to their agreeing to join the present coalition cabinet. They now claim that any postponement in introducing legislation to this effect would be considered by them as a breach by the Mapai of the agreement under which they entered the Cabinet, The General Zionists hold four seats in the Cabinet.

Leaders of the General Zionist Party today indicated that their threat does not mean that the representatives of their party will leave the Cabinet. What it means, they said, is that the General Zionist members in the Cabinet would not be bound any longer by collective responsibility for all the Cabinet decisions, and that the General Zionist deputies will cast their votes in Parliament in accordance with the decisions of their own party.

The Progressive Party, which received less than 4. 2 percent of the votes in the last parliamentary elections, and which strongly opposes the limitation upon which the General Zionist Party insists, today announced that, if the Cabinet decides to propose to the Parliament any legislation aimed at eliminating small parties, the Progressives will withdraw their only member from the Cabinet. The Progressives have four deputies in Parliament.

Meanwhile, it was learned today that four deputies of the Mapam, the pro-Communist party, may form their own fraction in Parliament as a result of a split within the Mapam. The four are members of the L’achdut Avodah section of the party, a minority group which publishes its own publication, “Lamerchav.”

The political committee of the Mapam today decided to eject the L’achdut Avodah members from all central bodies of the party and from the Mapam daily newspaper, Al Hamishmar, because the group did not adhere to the decisions adopted by the majority of the party.

State Department sources disclosed here today that informal talks have begun between American and Lebanese diplomats looking to ward the possible extension of U. S. military aid to Lebanon. It is understood that the military assistance program envisaged for Lebanon is similar to that already planned for Iraq and Egypt, two other members of the Arab League.

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