JERUSALEM (Jul. 6)
President Itzhak Ben Zvi of Israel today started consultations with leaders of the major political parties in the country regarding the formation of a new government following the resignation of Premier David Ben Gurion last night
The first group of leaders with whom the President met this morning was a delegation of Mr. Ben Gurion’s Mapai Party, the largest group in Knesset, Israel’s Parliament. The President was asked by the delegation to invite Mr. Ben Gurion to set up a new Cabinet as well as to advance the national elections to September 22 from November 19.
The Mapai delegation told the President that Mr. Ben Gurion could not continue with the present coalition, because four members of the coalition Cabinet had violated the principle of collective responsibility by voting against Israel’s arms deal with West Germany which was approved by the Cabinet.
The suggestion to advance the national elections came from the Mapai Party because there seemed to be no prospect of forming a new interim government. The General Zionists and the National Religious Party, which have been sounded out on this subject, did not seem inclined to give Mr.Ben Gurion support for a caretaker administration.
The Progressive Party today indicated that it would agree to the advancement of the elections. Other parties were still hesitant, since they were not so keen on holding elections before Rosh Hashanah which starts on October 3.
In the feverish inter-party talks which were going on today, the General Zionists and the National Religious Party were asked to give passive support to a “Minority Cabinet” to be composed of representatives of the Mapai and Progressive Parties. Mapai’s 40 Knesset deputies, plus five Arab deputies affiliated with Mapai and five progressive Party deputies would provide a caretaker coalition of 50 of the Knesset’s 120 deputies.
This arrangement would be workable, however, on the premise that either the General Zionists or the religious party deputies would abstain from opposition. The General Zionists, who supported Ben Gurion on the arms deal on grounds of national security, were nevertheless unwilling to make any political move which might prejudice the party in the November elections. The Religious Party members were equally resistant to giving assurances they would not embarrass the Prime Minister because they still felt a “deep hurt” in the controversy on the issue “Who is a Jew” which led the party to quit the coalition.
STALEMATE SEEN; ESHKOL MAY PRESIDE AT CABINET MEETINGS AS DEPUTY PREMIER
The situation summed up a total stalemate, since the present Cabinet continues in office, under law, until a new Government is formed and obtains a vote of confidence in Knesset. Because there is no chance of a new formation and because Mr. Ben Gurion remains adamant in his refusal to sit with the four dissident left-wing Ministers in Cabinet meetings, the Mapai seeks earlier elections as one means of ending the embarrassing situation of a Cabinet problem in which the Prime Minister refuses to attend meetings. In the meantime, a deputy, presumably Finance Minister Levi Eshkol, would preside at Cabinet meetings.
In the midst of the inter-party talks on the formation of a new government, the National Religious Party came out today in its organ, Hatzofeh. with the accusation that the government was violating the Sabbath through the arms deal with Germany by keeping workers on Saturdays, in the plants producing the arms.
The organ of the Religious Party asserts that the plant workers, who have been off their jobs on Saturdays, except for the brief period before the 1956 Sinai campaign, now are working full blast on Sabbaths and holidays -since the date the arms agreement was negotiated with the Bonn Federal Republic Representations against the practice to the Israel Ministry of Labor brought the reply that the Sabbath operations were necessary for security reasons.
Provisional statistics issued here today indicated that Israel exports to West Germany totalled $9, 000, 000 for the first six months of this year compared with $11, 000, 000 for all of 1958. The Bonn Government is now Israel’s third best customer, importing citrus, jams, juices, preserves, chocolates, eggs and other exports.