JERUSALEM (Jul. 1)
An extraordinary meeting of the Israel Cabinet, capping a week of intensive negotiations, failed to find an acceptable compromise today and Premier David Ben Gurion went before the Israel Knesset to announce the resignation of two members of his Cabinet representing the United Religious Party.
The Premier announced that he would temporarily hold both resigned portfolios. Religion and Posts, giving rise to hopes that the two Religious Ministers and three Deputy Ministers who quit at the same time would soon rejoin the coalition government. However, after the announcement, Religious spokesmen said they considered the negotiations for their return to have broken down and that they could not retreat further from their principles. Even without the votes of the Religious deputies, the Ben Gurion Government still commands a slight majority.
Though the negotiations seemed to be making progress today, the Premier made his announcement in Parliament to forestall a demand from the Opposition for a debate on the Cabinet crisis. As a result, when the Herut, right wing opposition party, did offer such a motion, it was defeated.
The crisis developed over the left wing and Labor members of the Cabinet insistence on the right of an individual to list himself as a Jew on the official identity card without reference to any standards. The Religious Ministers, backed by religious authorities throughout the land, insisted that a person must meet tests according to Jewish law before being identified as a Jew.
The Ministers who resigned are: Moshe Shapira, former Minister for Religion: Dr. Joseph Burg, former Minister of Posts: Moshe Ouna, Deputy Minister of Education; Yaacov Rosenberg, Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, and Zorach Warhaffig, Deputy Minister for Religion.
GOVERNMENT REITERATES FORMER DECISION ON DEFINITION OF “JEW”
An official communique issued after the special Cabinet session declared that the Cabinet had again decided that “a person who bona fide declares himself Jewish and not belonging to any other religion be registered (on his identity card) as a Jew. In the case of children whose parents are not Jewish, but where both parents declare bona fide that the child is Jewish and does not belong to any other religion, he will also be registered as Jewish.”
The United Religious Party walked out of the Cabinet because the majority’s definition of a Jew is contrary to the Religious Party’s insistence that Jewishness must be defined according to Jewish law.
Yesterday’s negotiations resulted in what was described as a “small” compromise offer from the Religious Party leadership. Under it, they would agree that if a child is converted to Judaism according to the requirements of Jewish law, the child may be registered as Jewish despite its parents remaining non-Jews. This concession was expected to be approved by the Supreme Rabbinical Council.
A snag developed, however, when other coalition partners–Achdut Avodah, Mapam, Progressives and a considerable portion of the Mapai–objected to what they labelled forcible proselytization of minors.