Knesset Endorses Arms Deal with Germany; Cabinet Change Delayed
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Knesset Endorses Arms Deal with Germany; Cabinet Change Delayed

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A government proposal endorsing Israel’s arrested with West Germany was approved today in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, by a vote of 57 against 45. The affirmative votes included all members of the Mapai, General Zionist and Progressive parties. There were six abstentions, including all five members representing Agudath Israel.

The two left-wing parties which participate in the government–Mapam and Achdu Avodah–were among those who voted against the government proposal. Premier David Ben Gurion had notified them earlier that, if they will not support the government proposal, their representatives will have to leave the Cabinet. The Mapam and Achdut Avodah have two members in the Cabinet each.

In order to dismiss the left-wing members from the Cabinet, Premier Ben Gurion would have to submit the resignation of the entire Cabinet to the President, after which he could form his own Cabinet without these members. However, it is expected that he will not tender the resignation within the next few days, possibly early next week.

Premier Ben Gurion left today for Tel Aviv where he will spend the week-end, thus permitting a cooling off period. However, he is determined not to have the four leftist ministers in his Cabinet under any circumstances. The delay in his intention to submit the Cabinet resignation immediately after today’s vote in Parliament is possibly due to the fact that United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold is now in Cairo trying to secure free passage of Israeli cargoes through the Suez Carol. Mr. Hammarskjold’s visit to the Middle East may also bring him to Israel during the week-end.

Circles close to the Premier said today that delay in submitting the resignation of his Cabinet is due to the fact that he has several possibilities before him and wants to think things over before he makes his final decision. One possibility is, to form a minority government since neither the General Zionists, nor the Religious Party are likely to join a short-term government till the forthcoming general elections in November.

Another possibility for Mr. Ben Gurion is to continue with the present composition of the government, but to relieve the left-wing ministers from their portfolios by making them members of the Cabinet without portfolio. This would make it possible for him not to invite them to Cabinet meetings. During the week-end stay in Tel Aviv he will decide on his next move which depends on negotiations which the leaders of his Mapai Party will hold with leaders of the General Zionist Party and the Religious Party.


Premier Ben Gurion was in his great fighting spirit today when he addressed the Parliament. He ridiculed the criticism voiced by members of the right-wing Herut Party and of the left-wing Mapam and Achdut Avodah Parties who spoke against the arms deal. He accused them of “demagoguery.”

Only West Germany, said the Premier, has recognized the full guilt for Hitler’s atrocities, and decided on restitution. “Will all who still have God it their hearts,” he pleaded, “not defile the memory of the slaughtered millions through a campaign geared to the elections?”

Regarding the charge that the decision to sell arms to West Germany overlooked the emotional aspects of the issue, Mr. Ben Gurion said: “Without Jewish feelings, we work not have survived the exile; we would not have settled this country; we would not have rebuilt the homeland; we would not have taken up arms for defense; we would not have fought and won.”

Emotions, he continued, “have also taught us not to weep, not to mourn, but to build the homeland, to accumulate Jewish strength, not to linger and be a beggar at the gate but to be sovereign, with equal rights in the family of nations.”

Mr. Ben Gurion stressed the need for strengthening the security of Israel. Such strengthening, he held, must take into account “the great changes taking place within the Jewish people, within the world, within Israel.” He told the House that “for the first time in its 4,000-year history, Israel must understand the array of political forces, their importance, their place, their weight, their relations among the various countries.”

He expressed regret that “small Israel does not belong to any bloc,” stating that adhesion to a bloc strengthens security, facilitates the supply of arms, reduces defense expenditures. “But Israel is isolated,” he declared, “and it must bear the burden, by itself. Thus Israel is obliged to find friends, these days, where it can, to obtain arms from nations–from a few nations–with which we have established friendship and confidence.”

Reasserting the need for friendly relations with the outside world, Mr. Ben Gurion deplored the lack of prospects for winning some friendships in the near future. “Existing friendships, “he asserted, “must be continually primed. West Germany is an important factor in its region. Germany’s attitude toward Israel will undoubtedly influence the attitude of other countries with whom she is associated.”

He denounced the disclosures of the arms deal, by the German newspaper, “Der Spiegel” as “dangerous sabotage, “in which the two left-wing partners of his coalition cabinet–Achdut Avodah and Mapam–joined. He concluded by telling the Parliament that, as Defense Minister, he could not “for a single moment bear the responsibility if the Knesset or the Government opposed my efforts to secure equipment needed for Israel’s defense.”


Cabinet members of the opposition Achdut Avodah and Mapam Parties made personal statements in Parliament, charging, among other things, that Mr. Ben Gurion “steamrollered” the German arms deal through the Cabinet.

Moshe Carmel, of Achdut Avodah, Minister of Communications, insisted that the only reference to a possible arms deal in the Cabinet had come up during a discussion of foreign currency income. Minister of Health Israel Barzilai, of Mapam, said he had immediately questioned the reference to a possible arms deal with Germany, and was told by Mr. Ben Gurion that the matter would be on the following week’s agenda. Actually, he maintained, the issue was not brought up in the Cabinet again.

The second of Achdut Avodah’s Cabinet members, Israel Bar Yehuda, Minister of the Interior, charged Mr. Ben Gurion with “stealing” a decision “which he wrapped up in a formal, legal request to extend the existing fire-arms law.” He insisted that neither he nor his party colleague, Mr. Carmel, had heard “Germany” mentioned by the Premier as among the states contracting for Israeli arms.

(In The Hague, a Dutch Government spokesman said today that Israel recently supplied the Dutch Army with explosives and ammunition. He also reported that last year the Dutch Air Force received Uzzi submachine guns from Israel.)

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