JERUSALEM (Jun. 28)
Premier David Ben Gurion was determined today to force the resignation of the leftist members of his Cabinet–the Mapam and Achdut Avodah–if they will not give him unqualified support on the arms deal concluded with West Germany under which Israel sold to the West German Government about $3,000,000 worth of grenade launchers.
Prior to a six-hour meeting of the Cabinet, which will be continued tomorrow, the Premier invited the representatives of the opposition parties which are not in the coalition government to a meeting, this afternoon. This was considered as open notice to the leftist members of his Cabinet that unless they agree to accept collective responsibility of the government in fulfilling the arms contract with West Germany, he would turn to the opposition parties for the formation of a caretaker government.
The opposition parties whom Premier Ben Gurion invited for talks included the General Zionist Party; the National Religious Party, composed of Mizrachi and Mizrachi-laborites; the Agudat Israel Party; and the Agudah Laborites. The right-wing Herut Party, in the meantime, announced today that it will introduce a motion in Parliament tomorrow, demanding the cancellation of the arms deal, while the Communist Party registered a motion of non-confidence for tomorrow’s meeting of the Parliament.
The Parliamentary Security and Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to discuss the issue, and will meet tomorrow prior to the session of the Parliament. It is considered as certain that Premier Ben Gurion will insist that the left-wing partners of his Cabinet should fully support him at the Parliamentary Committee, and in Parliament, when the arms deal issue will be discussed. Otherwise, he will present the resignation of the Cabinet to President Ben Zvi, and will try to form another Cabinet in which the Mapam and Achdut Avodah will not be given any representation.
THREATENS TO RETIRE TO SDEH BOKER, IF NOT GIVEN A FREE HAND
Following the adjournment of today’s Cabinet meeting until tomorrow, Mr. Ben Gurion invited the leaders of his own Mapai Party for a conference to acquaint them with the developments. Yesterday, he reportedly told them at a conference in Tel Aviv that he would demand a free hand on the issue, and that he would brook no partisan policy on anything connected with the defense of the country. He also reportedly told the leaders of his party that he would retire to Sdeh Boker if not given a free hand by the party.
The General Zionists today indicated that they will not participate in a caretaker government, which would take over until the national elections in November. At the sametime, their leaders were reported taking the attitude of supporting the arms deal. “If we can sell vitamins–oranges–to West Germany, why not also arms?” was the stand they took. However, they made it clear that they do not want to come before the electorate in the national elections as a junior partner in a temporary coalition.
In an exclusive interview published in Davar, organ of the Histadrut, Premier Ben Gurion said “all Cabinet members were aware of the arms deal with West Germany which was approved unanimously.” He added that the deal was not made public by Israel because “we were requested by the Germans to keep it secret.” The Premier also said in his interview that, early this month, he reported on the deal to the Parliamentary Security and Foreign Affairs Committee.
The political committee of Achdut Avodah met to hear a report on the arms deal issue from its Cabinet member, Israel Bar Yehuda, following Mr. Ben Gurion’s statement that the whole Cabinet was aware of the deal since last December. After the meeting was over a spokesman for Achdut Avodah said: “Following Mr. Bar Yehuda’s report, it appears that Premier Ben Gurion’s statement is incompatible with the facts.”
The spokesman claimed that there was no discussion in the Cabinet over the deal nor was there any decision adopted. He said that the party supported the attitude of its Cabinet members opposing the deal, and demanding its cancellation, as well as to refrain in the future from selling any Israeli arms to Germany.
Premier Ben Gurion said last night that, after the Cabinet meeting is over, he would publish all documents relating to the fact that the entire government was aware of the deal.