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Ben-gurion Explains His Order to Investigate Two Army Officers

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Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion issued a statement last night denying that there was any connection between an inquiry he had ordered into the integrity of two Army officers and the resignation in 1955 of Pinhas Lavon as Minister of Defense in the Cabinet of former Premier Moshe Sharett.

Supporters of Mr. Lavon, who is now secretary general of the Histadrut, Israel’s labor federation, had claimed that the probe of the two officers would “rehabilitate” the former Defense Minister.

“As Defense Minister,” Mr. Ben-Gurion declared in the lengthy statement on the investigation, “I will not allow any officer to serve in the Army, whose hands are not clean. But I will also not allow an officer to be pilloried without proof and without trial.”

The Prime Minister revealed that on the basis of material submitted to him by Mr. Lavon some five months ago and “reports that reached me during the trial of a certain person in recent months,” he considered it his duty to order the setting up of an inquiry into the integrity of two Army officers.

The press, however, confused two issues, the Premier’s statement continued. One was “an unfortunate incident for which an inquiry committee was appointed by former Premier Sharett at the end of 1954 at the request of the then Defense Minister Lavon, which did not reach any conclusion,” The second issue, the statement asserted, was Mr. Lavon’s resignation in February 1955, which, according to Mr. Sharett’s statement to the Knesset, was because Mr. Lavon “did not find it possible to continue in his post after his proposals for changes in the structure of the defense organization were not accepted by the Government.”

REPORTS TO CABINET ON REASONS FOR ORDERING AN INVESTIGATION

Declaring that he did not have the least doubt that Mr. Sharett’s statement to the Knesset was truthful, Mr. Ben-Gurion said in the statement: “I had political differences with Sharett in the Government but I never had, and I do not have today, the slightest doubt as to his personal integrity and honesty.”

Denying any knowledge of the changes proposed by Mr. Lavon, the Premier said that neither before he relinquished the post of Defense Minister, which Mr. Lavon assumed, nor after returning to it in February 1955, “did I see any need for changes in the defense organization.” The present inquiry will not deal with Mr. Lavon’s activities as Minister but only with the integrity of the two Army officers, Mr. Ben-Gurion declared.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister reported to the full cabinet and, later, to a special meeting of Parliament’s Committee on Security and Foreign Affairs, about the reasons why he has order a special committee, headed by Supreme Court Justice Haim Cohen, to probe into the events preceding the sudden resignation of Pinhas Lavon from the post of Minister of Defense, in 1955.

Mr. Ben-Gurion promised the Cabinet that he will bring before it the results of the committee’s probe, and said he will order the Minister of Justice to prosecute anyone who might be deemed guilty of perjury as a result of 1’affaire Lavon.

Mr. Lavon said today that he would not comment on the Premier’s statement on the investigation until he addressed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee tomorrow. He said he would supply the Committee with additional documents relating to the “affair” which led to his resignation as Defense Minister in 1955.

Israelis, meanwhile, are still in a dilemma over what the whole affair is about and hints in the papers only help to increase the obscurity.

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