Mizrachi Ministers Quit Israel Cabinet over “jewish” Identity Issue

The United Religious Party quit Israel’s coalition today on the issue of state identification of the Jewishness of Israel’s citizenship, but the split was not expected to cause the fall of Premier David Ben Gurion’s Government.

Moshe Shapiro, Minister of Religious Affairs, and Zorach Warhaftig, Deputy Minister, called on Mr. Ben Gurion to convey orally the unanimous decision of the merged Mizrachi and Hapoel Hamizrachi to leave because of a Cabinet vote Sunday on a new official identity card which gave the option to any Israeli to list himself as Jewish by his own decision. The two religious groups have participated in every government since the establishment of Israel in 1948. They won 11 of the 120 seats in Knesset in the last national election in July, 1955.

No developments were expected from the departure of the 11 Religious Party Knesset deputies until Mr. Ben Gurion calls a Cabinet meeting and then reports to Knesset. The Cabinet may be convened tomorrow and the meeting would provide an opportunity to reconsider the issue of the identity cards and thus lay the basis for continuation of the present coalition.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Israel Bar Yehuda, whose identity cards precipitated the current situation, told a press conference today that he would support a proposal that faith and nationality not be included on an individual’s card, but that he merely be identified as to citizenship status. This statement may lead the way to a solution of the crisis, unless the security authorities insist on retention of the nationality and religious questions.

The issue of the identity cards was understood to be a basic one for the religious parties because state permission to any citizen not belonging to any other faith to register himself as Jewish would diminish the Chief Rabbinate’s control over issues of personal status, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. The religious parties contend that the identity card claim runs counter to the age-old criteria by which an individual’s Jewishness has been determined. They have proposed that identity cards should not include the holder’s religion at all.

The Chief Rabbinate meanwhile issued a directive to all its branches in Israel to disregard the religious designation in the identity cards and to investigate each situation individually.

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