JERUSALEM (Jan. 3)
Israel’s Finance Minister Levi Eshkol spent his day today pleading with members of the Israel Cabinet and with leaders of the Mapai party to prevent the resignation of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion over his rift with Pinhas Lavon, Secretary General of the Histadrut–Israel’s Federation of Labor. Mr. Eshkol advocates a solution which should be satisfactory to all sides involved.
Mr. Eshkol’s effort seems to go in the direction of satisfying the Prime Minister, who does not recognize the exoneration by the Cabinet of Mr. Lavon as responsible for the failure of a 1954 action by the Defense Department. At the same time, Mr. Eshkol does not seek reversal of the Cabinet decision which exonerated Mr. Lavon. The proposed compromise seems to be, that an investigation committee be established which should find out who did give the order for the 1954 “unfortunate affair, ” when Mr. Lavon was Defense Minister, since the Cabinet has accepted the view that Mr. Lavon himself did not give this order.
The entire matter will come up for a decision on Thursday, at a meeting of the secretariat of the Mapai party, of which both Ben-Gurion and Lavon are leading members. The meeting will also discuss the position of Mrs. Golda Meir, Foreign Minister, and Pinhas Sapir, Minister of Commerce and Industry, who indicated that they will resign from their posts should the Cabinet do anything that may be considered as reversing its decision which declared Mr. Lavon blameless of the 1954 debacle.
ALL NON-MAPAI MEMBERS OF CABINET BACK LAVON’S EXONERATION
Mr.Ben-Gurion’s supporters today suggested that the Premier form a new Government, appointing to the Cabinet those members of Mapai whom he prefers for Cabinet posts. The pro-Lavon faction, however, insists such a move would not resolve the Ben-Gurion-Lavon dispute, since the reorganization of the Cabinet would only strengthen Ben-Gurion’s hand in fighting Lavon.
Mediators between the two factions suggest that Mr. Ben-Gurion be exempted from the Cabinet rule of “collective responsibility.” Should Mr. Ben-Gurion be freed from the rule, under which he must support a decision adopted by a majority of the Cabinet, he could continue his fight against what he calls “the whitewash” of Lavon–and at the same time remain in the Cabinet.
Both proposals are being opposed by non-Mapai members of the coalition Government. Mapam and Ahdut Avoda have issued official statements, expressing opposition to a reversal in any form of the Cabinet’s previous decision exonerating Lavon. Newspapers today reported that Minister of Justice Pinhas Rosen, a member of the Progressive party, is also threatening to resign if the Cabinet decision clearing Lavon is reversed. The Religious party, too, is known to be in opposition to such a move.
Backers of Lavon today claim that yesterday’s reports that Lavon would resign from his high Histadrut post emanated from his opponents. On the other hand, Mapam circles are concerned about the reported Lavon threat to quit, saying that they expect him to “leave with a big bang.” The Lavon backers are using the slogan, “Vanquishing Justice by Power, ” and Mapai actives fear that this view, if pushed further, may rock the entire Mapai party.