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Israel Cabinet Postpones Decision on Resignation of Religious Ministers

The Israel Cabinet postponed today a decision on the resignation of two Ministers and two Deputy Ministers representing the United Religious Party. The delay, effective until Tuesday when a special Cabinet meeting will be held, means that a new attempt will be made to reach a compromise with the Religious Party over the dispute which has come to be known in Israel as “Who is a Jew?”

Meanwhile, the postponement has left unclarified the status of the four Religious Ministers, whose written resignations were read to the Cabinet today by Premier David Ben Gurion. The Premier also reported to his Ministers on the progress of attempts to reach a compromise.

The conflict, which threatens to split the Ben Gurion coalition Government but not necessarily to topple it, sprang from the Interior Ministry’s inclusion in new identity card applications the right of each applicant to be listed as a Jew, if he chose. Religious authorities, from the Chief Rabbinate down, oppose this move, insisting there are certain religious tests which must be met before one may be listed as a Jew.

Earlier this week-end, after orally informing Mr. Ben Gurion of the Religious Party’s decision, Moshe Shapira, Minister for Religions, conferred with the Premier on the possibility of his and his colleague’s returning. But, like a later meeting between a committee of three prominent Mapai Party leaders and representatives of the Religious bloc, this conference came to naught.

It was reported in the press that after a bedside conference between Religious Party leaders and the venerable dean of the religious political movement, Rabbi Judah L. Maimon, the latter wrote to Mr. Ben Gurion warning against a split in the community. Noting that he was confined to a hospital, Rabbi Maimon underlined the extreme danger of such a disruptive development and expressed the hope that Mr. Ben Gurion would lend his support to finding a modus vivendi, Mr. Ben Gurion and Rabbi Maimon are old friends and comrades-in-arms in the long political and underground struggle for Jewish immigration to Palestine and, eventually, for Israel’s independence.

Dr. Joseph Burg, Minister of Posts and second Religious member of the Cabinet, returned this morning from a lengthy visit to Australia and the Far East, recalled by party leaders because of the split. He reported that the situation in Israel had echoed throughout the world.

It was learned here today that the Religious Party’s position had hardened, and its leaders had rejected a Mapai suggestion that the entire question of Jewish identity be dropped from the Identity cards. Instead, they demanded a return to the situation which existed when Mr. Shapira was Minister of Interior.

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