Ben-gurion Faces Cabinet Crisis on Probe of Lavon Affair
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Ben-gurion Faces Cabinet Crisis on Probe of Lavon Affair

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Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion faced a new Government crisis today when the two Mapam party members of his coalition cabinet walked out of a Cabinet meeting in protest against his refusal to name a Mapam representative to a five-man ministerial committee designated to investigate all aspects of the Lavon affair.

The commission named today is composed of two members of Mr. Ben-Gurion’s Mapai party, one Progressive, one representing the National Religious Bloc, and one from Achdut Avodah. Mr. Ben-Gurion refused to agree to the designation of a Mapam member because a spokesman of that party had characterized the Lavon case as another Dreyfus affair.

When the two Mapam ministers angrily stalked out of the Cabinet session, Yitzhak Ben-Aharon, the Minister of Transport and Achdut member, announced that he would not serve on the committee unless the Mapam were given representation.

It was expected tonight that Mr. Ben-Gurion would summon an extraordinary session of the Cabinet for tomorrow morning, to seek agreement on composition of the commission prior to the meeting of the Knesset in the afternoon.

The Knesset will have before it a Herut Party motion tantamount to a non-confidence vote on the Lavon affair. Observers said that, unless the Mapam and Achdut Avodah claims were settled, both parties might abstain from voting with the Government on this motion, or might even vote against the Government, thus shattering the coalition agreement.


Designation of a ministerial committee had been a compromise between a Parliamentary probe, for which there had been wide demand, and a judicial probe which Prime Minister Ben-Gurion had insisted upon. Mr. Ben-Gurion had taken the position that only a judicial commission with full powers of subpoena and cross-examination would be competent to deal with the affair and establish the identity of the person or persons who ordered the 1954 military operation, the nature of which has never been disclosed, which led to the resignation of Minister of Defense Pinbas Lavon in 1955.

Mr. Lavon, whose demand that he be absolved of responsibility for the “security mishap” had precipitated the crisis, said last week that a statement by former Prime Minister Moshe Sharett, and publication of the Attorney General’s report on forgery and subornation of perjury in testimony involving him with the affair, had satisfied his demand for exoneration.

The incident, however, did not close with Mr. Lavon’s statement, but took a new turn with demands for the identification of those responsible for the military operation. The question that emerged was whether the defense establishment had acted independently of the elected civilian authority of the country, in mounting the mysterious operation.

Mr. Ben-Gurion staunchly defended the Army this weekend against these charges. Speaking at the graduation ceremony of an officers’ training school somewhere in Israel, he said emphatically that “Israel’s army was and always will be subordinated in a civilian regime. The Army never dared, and would never dare, to do anything without the permission of civilian authorities.”

Raising his voice, the Prime Minister told the graduates that Israeli officers “can walk with their heads erect, since their morals are of the highest.” He said that, as in any army, Israel officers were not angels, and that those who were found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer were dismissed or tried. He reiterated his opinion that the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, was obliged to clear up any doubts about the relations between the armed forces and civilian authorities.

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