Showdown in Fight Between Ben-gurion and Lavon Postponed for Week
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Showdown in Fight Between Ben-gurion and Lavon Postponed for Week

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A final showdown in the broiling dispute between Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Pinhas Lavon, which has powered a profound split in their Mapai party, was postponed today until after the close of the 25th World Zionist Congress which ends January 10. The result of the showdown will decide whether Mr. Ben-Gurion will or will not resign from the Cabinet.

The postponement came on agreement to delay for a week a meeting of the Mapai party secretariat–originally set for today–at which the showdown was to have taken place. Efforts on the part of peace-makers in the party to find a solution acceptable both to the Prime Minister and to Mr. Lavon, the secretary-general of the Histadrut, have not been successful thus far.

The request for postponement was made by two other Mapai leaders, former Premier Moshe Sharett and Finance Minister Levi Eshkol, who has been attempting to mediate the dispute. Mr. Eshkol is serving as Deputy Prime Minister during Mr. Ben-Gurion’s four-week “vacation,” which the Prime Minister started after preparing and signing–but not submitting–his resignation.

The Prime Minister left Jerusalem today with a warning to his party colleagues that he expected them to force Mr. Lavon into complete submission, possibly making him give up his Histadrut post.

Meanwhile, both sides sought to utilize today the postponement to strengthen their positions. Ben-Gurion supporters claimed the receipt of hundreds of letters and telegrams from the “masses,” from “simple party members,” who urged the Prime Minister not to resign. It was also reported that delegations of local Mapai leaders called on Joseph Almogi, Mapai secretary-general, asking that “everything be done” to induce the Prime Minister not to resign.

Lavon supporters charged that this “spontaneous mass movement” actually was organized by Mr. Almogi, who is considered the most determined of Mr. Lavon’s foes and who has been mentioned as a successor if Mr. Lavon is forced to resign as Histadrut secretary general. The Lavon group also was reported seeking to mobilize grass-roots support in the widening struggle, particularly among Histadrut veterans and collective settlements.

Lavon supporters held a meeting yesterday at the office of Mrs. Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, in which participants included Pinhas Sapir, the Minister of Trade, Mayor Mordechai Natoir of Tel Aviv and Histadrut leaders. Mr. Eshkol was present for part of the meeting. Mrs. Meir and Mr. Sapir have indicated that they will resign from the Israel Cabinet should the Cabinet’s decision exonerating Mr. Lavon be changed as demanded by Mr. Ben-Gurion.


Delegations of Mapai leaders have met during the past 24 hours twice with the Prime Minister in efforts to determine whether there was any possibility of a settlement. The delegations departed without receiving much encouragement. It was reported that the Prime Minister reiterated his determination to quit as Premier and as Mapai party leader unless a judicial investigation of the whole affair was made.

A Mapai delegation led by Mayor Abba Khoushy of Haifa met with the Prime Minister last night and asked him to drop his resignation threat and promised him solid party support for his leadership. The Prime Minister reportedly told this delegation that under existing conditions, he could not withdraw his threat to quit. Mr. Ben-Gurion also expressed indignation that hints had been given as to the identity of the person who gave the order for the 1954 security mishap which led to Mr. Lavon’s forced resignation in 1955 as Israel Minister of Defense and, subsequently, to the present bitter intraparty dispute.

Davar, the official organ of the Histadrut, editorially welcomed today the decision to postpone the Mapai secretariat meeting. The newspaper expressed the hope that the postponement would make it possible to find some solution to restore peace in the party.

Many Mapai settlements adopted resolutions calling on the party to take every possible action to prevent the Prime Minister’s resignation.

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