JERUSALEM (Dec. 22)
The Ben Gurion Cabinet, at its regular weekly meeting today, postponed a decision until next Tuesday on the Premier’s ultimatum to the left-wing splinter party, Achdut Avoda to publicly apologize for violating the secrecy of Cabinet decisions or quit the Cabinet.
An official communique issued at the end of today’s meeting said the Ministers had discussed the Achdut Avoda’s behavior–publication in its official organ of the secret Cabinet plan to send a “leading personality” to Bonn to discuss Israeli security arrangements with the Adenauer Government. The discussion will be continued Tuesday at an extraordinary session of the Cabinet, the communique said.
This gave negotiating party leaders 48 hours more in which to work out an acceptable compromise. Until late last night most observers here were freely predicting the fall of the Ben Gurion Government as the Achdut Avoda refused to accept either of Mr Ben Gurion’s suggestions and the Premier prepared to carry out his threat to resign and over throw his government, with a view to forming a new Cabinet without the left-wing group
Early today, some members of the Cabinet voiced guardedly optimistic statements of the possibilities of a compromise which would leave both the Achdut Avoda and its leftist partner group, Mapam, in the Cabinet.
THREE MAPAI TRENDS REPORTED ON DEALING WITH ACHDUT AVODA
When the Cabinet members filed into their meeting today, it was considered fairly certain that Mr. Ben Gurion would not settle for a Cabinet censure of the Achdut Avoda action. He held steadfast to his view that no responsible person can head a coalition whose members leak information on vital security matters. He had contended–and his Mapai Party had upheld him–that by publishing the information and wrecking the mission to Germany, the small party had endangered Israel’s national interests to further its narrow party aims
When the Mapai secretariat 60 members strong, met last night to instruct its Ministers, there were three discernible trends in the Labor Party leadership. The advocates of reconciliation, whose most articulate spokesman is Finance Minister Levi Eshkol, urged a face saving formula to satisfy both Mr. Ben Gurion and the Achdut Avoda
A second group disappointed in what they termed Achdut Avoda’s lack of national discipline despite two years of participation in the coalition government, wanted to oust the leftists. A third group suggested that Mr. Ben Gurion resign, form a caretaker government and call the nation to general elections a year and a half before the present Knessei term expired.
PROGRESSIVES, MAPAM OPPOSE OUSTING OF ACHDUT AVODA FROM CABINET
While these forces were shaping up and locking horns within the Labor Party, other parties in the Cabinet were making their position clear. The small, but influential, Progressive Party decided to press against the ouster of the Achdut Avoda on the grounds that the delicate Middle Eastern situation requires a united undisturbed Cabinet at this moment. The Mapam, which had been edging in that direction, put out a call for keeping the Achdut Avoda in the coalition, in the name of “labor unity, ” and threatened to leave if the other left-wing Socialist group was put out.
If the next 48 hours do not bring a new rapprochement, it is believed certain here that Mr. Ben Gurion will walk into Parliament next week and announce his resignation. At the same time, he will present a “small coalition” for which he will ask approval. If he obtains support, and a single vote majority should guarantee it, he will then be in a position to bargain with several opposition groups for their entry to the Cabinet.
The “small coalition” which would have 61 votes in the 120-deputy House, would include Mapai, Progressives, the Arab parties and Mizrachi-Poale Mizrachi, However, with such a slim majority Mr. Ben Gurion would have to pay more heed to the Arab deputies and the religious Ministers–a position which the Mapai leadership finds hard to accept. The threatened defection of the Progressives would doom this scheme.