JERUSALEM (Jan. 15)
In a dramatic move aimed at saving the Israel Cabinet from falling, President Izhak Ben-Zvi today summoned Premier David Ben-Gurion and seven other members of the Cabinet split over the “Lavon Affair,” and succeeded in securing their agreement “to make an all-out effort to restore conditions for further collaboration and the normal working of the Cabinet.”
A communique to this effect was issued following the meeting in the President’s residence, which lasted two and a half hours. The communique was issued on behalf of the eight Cabinet members participating in the talk, including Premier Ben-Gurion. Today was the first time since December 25–when Mr. Ben-Gurion stalked out of a Cabinet meeting–that he had met with the other Ministers.
His departure from the Cabinet meeting last month followed Mr. Ben-Gurion’s anger over the Cabinet’s approval of a unanimous vote of a Ministerial Committee, exonerating Pinhas Lavon, former Minister of Defense, of charges of complicity in the aftermaths to a 1954 “incident” involving security. The Ministerial Committee was composed of the seven Cabinet members who, together with Mr. Ben-Gurion, were summoned today by President Ben-Zvi. Premier Ben-Gurion, who in the meantime took a vacation for several weeks, had threatened that he would resign his post if there were no reversal of the Ministerial Committee’s decision.
At the meeting today in his home, President Ben-Zvi appealed to all present to desist from controversy over the “Lavon Affair.” Instead, he requested that the Ministers see to it that the Government continue with its regular work “in its full composition.” He demanded that all members of the Government refrain from resigning.
In addition to a resignation threat from Mr. Ben-Gurion, there are also threats of quitting by Minister of Justice Pinhas Rosen, who headed the Ministerial Committee. Sharp disagreements were voiced also by Foreign Minister Golda Meir and Minister of Commerce and Industry Pinhas Sapir. At the same time, Finance Minister Levi Eshkol and Minister of Police Behor Shitreet, who had been members of the Ministerial Committee that absolved Mr. Lavon, have said they could not reverse themselves.
BEN-GURION REPORTED ALTERING CRITICISM; CABINET MEETS TOMORROW
At the meeting at the Ben-Zvi home, Mr. Ben-Gurion is understood to have modified his previous attacks against the Ministerial Committee’s findings, declaring he was not questioning the group’s integrity but only its procedures. He emphasized his belief that the committee should have called witnesses and should have given the Lavon matter further study. It was reported after the meeting that several of the Cabinet members, including Mr. Rosen, were satisfied with this stand.
The Ben-Zvi move, however, has not solved any of the fundamental difficulties as yet. Following the conference in the President’s home, the Ministers went on to the regular Sunday meeting of the Cabinet–but Mr. Ben-Gurion did not join them. He returned to his “leave,” a vacation on which he started officially last month.
At the Cabinet meeting, Mr. Rosen repeated a proposal he had made previously, calling for the resignation of the entire Government. The Cabinet decided to meet again in extraordinary session Tuesday night, indicating that the crisis has been averted only temporarily. The time for the next Cabinet session was put off for 48 hours, to give the various coalition parties time to hold caucuses of their own in the meanwhile.
SADIGORER REBBE BEGS BEN-GURION ON HIS KNEES NOT TO RESIGN
Meanwhile, another highly charged event that occurred late last night was revealed here today. It involved an appeal made directly to Mr. Ben-Gurion by the revered Sadigorer Rebbe, to remain in his position at the helm of Israel’s Government.
The Sadigorer Rebbe has been attending the current Congress of Polish Jews. Late Saturday night, one of his Hassidim telephoned the home of the vacationing Prime Minister, telling Mrs. Paula Ben-Gurion that the Holy man wants to see her husband. She replied that she would awake Mr. Ben-Gurion at once for a conference with the Rebbe.
The Sadigorer Rebbe, accompanied by several of his Hassidim, went to the Ben-Gurion home. Literally on his knees, with tears streaming down his face, the Rebbe told Mr. Ben-Gurion: “You constructed the State of Israel. Now you must save her from destruction by putting an end to this affair” Mr. Ben-Gurion was moved and replied that it was not he who had built Israel “but I shall not give my hand to its destruction.” “You can trust Israel,” he told the Rebbe, “which found a way out of greater hardships, that it will find a way out of this difficult affair.”