JERUSALEM (Oct. 31)
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion beat back four opposition attempts in the Knesset today to censure his Government for its handling of the Lavon affair, and emerged from the debate with a solid coalition vote for a resolution which “took not.” of the Prime Minister’s state of the nation address.
Critical resolutions, offered by the Herut Party, the General Zionists, the Communists and the Agudat Israel, had to be watered down when the Speaker of the House refused to submit to a vote any resolution referring directly to the “security mishap” in 1954 which brought about the resignation of Pinhas Lavon as Defense Minister in 1955, and precipitated the current affair.
The opposition parties also failed in their attempts to put through a resolution which would instruct the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee to continue its consideration of the “affair.”
The Knesset votes came tonight after Mr. Ben-Gurion had replied to the general debate in a 90-minute speech that ranged over several areas in which his regime had been criticized before he took up the Lavon affair. Even then, he did not discuss the general implications of the affair, which he had ignored in his state of the nation address. Instead, he limited himself to replies to suggestions that the Army might have been acting independently of the civilian authority.
ENTERS STAUNCH DEFENSE OF ARMY; THREATENED CABINET CRISIS RESOLVED
Mr. Ben-Gurion defended the Army with vigor and some heat. He told the Knesset that the Army regarded itself solely as an executive arm of the civilian authorities. It had never occurred to the Army leaders and, he was certain, he said, it never would, that they should take any kind of action of their own free will.
Neither the Army nor the Government, he noted ironically, was composed exclusively of angels and, hence, there may have been some unfortunate cases and charges against individual officers some of whom were currently under detention. He stressed, however, that this in no way reflected on the officers’ corps.
The Premier reviewed the development of the Israeli Army and disclosed that, prior to his retirement to Sde Boker in 1953, he had drafted a three-year plan to strengthen Israel’s security. This plan, he said, was carried out, and the Sinai campaign of 1956 was proof of its success. The Prime Minister cited the report of officers “of a not particularly friendly nation,” stating that the Israeli Army was the best in the Middle East, and that the Sinai campaign was one of the finest achievements in military history. The report to which Mr. Ben-Gurion referred was believed to have been made to the Soviet General staff.
Prior to the Knesset session, an inter-party fight over the composition of a ministerial commission to investigate all aspects of the Lavon affair was resolved at an hour-long special meeting of the Cabinet. The original five-man commission was expanded to seven, adding one Mapam and one Agudist representative.
A Government crisis had threatened yesterday, when the two Mapam Party members of the Cabinet walked out of its regular session to protest their party’s exclusion from the commission. The Achdut Avodah representative then refused to accept his designation to the commission in support of the Mapam ministers.
Mr. Ben-Gurion, who did not vote in the Cabinet discussion yesterday on the form the investigation was to take, objected to Mapam representation because a Mapam spokesman had likened the Lavon affair to the Dreyfus case. This morning, the Mapai Party agreed to enlarge the commission, and give a seat to Mapam. Israel Barzilai, the Minister of Health, was named as the Mapam member of the commission and Benjamin Mintsz, Minister of Posts, to represent Poale Aguda.