Mizrachi Party Sanctions Decision to Withdraw Its Cabinet Members

The United Religious Party executive gave official sanction today to a decision earlier in the week of its Ministers in the Cabinet to quit the coalition government in protest against the Cabinet’s approval of regulations which would, in effect, identify as a Jew any one who so designates himself on his official identity card.

It was further decided that the two Ministers and two Deputy Ministers representing the religious bloc should submit their resignations in writing by Sunday at the latest. Minister of Religion Moshe Shapiro conveyed this decision to Premier David Ben Gurion orally on Tuesday.

Though there was no difference of opinion over quitting the Cabinet over the identity card issue, the religious leaders differed among themselves on conditions under which they would agree to return to the coalition. Some would be prepared to let the quarrel drop if the question of religion was completely eliminated from the card, while others demanded a return to the old situation in effect when Mr. Shapiro was in charge of all registration of Israeli citizens.

The Minister for Religion noted that when he was Minister for Interior all children were registered by the Health Department and the current centralization of registry, of which the identity card is one aspect, was introduced after he yielded the Interior portfolio.

In today’s discussion, it was pointed out that the issue of self-identification was of world-wide importance. It was charged that if the new regulations went into effect they would open up the flood gates of assimilation in countries outside Israel through the undermining of the uniqueness of Jews.

The pro-government Mapai Party, meanwhile, named a three-member committee to open negotiations on formation of a new coalition with all parties now in the government, including the Religious Party. The committee consists of Mordecai Namir, Minister of Labor; Kaddish Luz, Minister of Agriculture, and Akiba Govrin, chairman of the Knesset Labor Committee.

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