JERUSALEM (Jan. 22)
The Cabinet phase of the dispute between Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Histadrut Secretary-General Pinhas Lavon, which for a month has threatened the fall of Israel’s coalition Government, was ended today.
The end of the crisis came when the Cabinet, meeting today, received a letter from the Prime Minister in which Israel’s elder statesman reiterated that he regards the decision of a seven-man Ministerial committee–which exonerated Mr. Lavon of responsibility for the 1954 security mishap–in a report on December 25 as “the last word.” The Ministerial committee was composed of representatives of six parties, including two from Mr. Ben-Gurion’s own Mapai party.
Mr. Ben-Gurion had challenged the Ministerial committee’s report. He said that report led to “half-truths, bias and miscarriage of justice.” Because those statements were interpreted as tantamount to Mr. Ben-Gurion’s non-confidence in his own Cabinet members, there were threats of resignations by some members of the Cabinet, while Mr. Ben-Gurion himself had his letter of resignation ready for submission to President Izhak Ben-Zvi.
Today, Mr. Ben-Gurion’s letter of retraction, accepting the Ministerial committee’s decision on the Lavon case as “the last word,” was read to the Cabinet by Minister of Justice Pinhas Rosen, chairman of the seven-man Ministerial committee. The Cabinet “took note” of the new Ben-Gurion letter–and the crisis was resolved.
FIGHT BETWEEN BEN-GURION AND LAVON CONTINUES IN MAPAI PARTY
But while the Cabinet crisis is now over, the Prime Minister still faces a fight inside his own Mapai party on his demand that Mr. Lavon either resign from the secretary-generalship of Histadrut, or be fired from that post as chief executive of Israel’s Federation of Labor.
The Mapai crisis sharpened last week after Mr. Lavon sent a letter to each member of the Mapai secretariat, criticizing a decision to set up a party committee to examine the Lavon case. The Mapai committee was to probe into statements on the 1954 “security mishap” made by Mr. Lavon before the Security and Foreign Affairs Committee on the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament.
Accused of violating a party decision enjoining all parties to the dispute to maintain “a truce of silence,” Mr. Lavon said after sending his letter that he was merely criticizing the decision for a new probe. That decision, he held, was taken only in response to “pressure” caused by a previous statement issued by Mr. Ben-Gurion.
So far, the Mapai investigating committee has not materialized. Two of the Cabinet members named by Mapai to that committee–Foreign Minister Golda Meir and Minister of Police Behor Shitreet–have refused to serve on that committee. Mr. Shitreet, who had been a member of the Ministerial committee that exonerated Mr. Lavon on December 25, said his views on the entire affair are “well known.” Mrs. Meir said her Ministry’s duties occupy so much of her time she will not be able to devote her efforts to the work of such a committee.
The Mapai secretariat is to meet on the issue again tomorrow, with several members of the secretariat known to be demanding “strongest steps” against Lavon for his latest letter.
Mr. Lavon has made it clear–first in the letter which he wrote last week to the members of the Mapai secretariat, then in an interview this weekend–that he will not resign. “If the party decides: it has no confidence in me,” he stated, “that is a different matter. But I am not going to resign.”
His opposition to the proposed Mapai probe, the Histadrut official declared, is based on his feeling that it would be “one-sided.” Furthermore, he insisted, the probe would be held “at pistol point,” since Mr. Ben-Gurion had insisted that the investigation be finished in three weeks. “I am ready for any investigation,” he said, “but not for a one-sided one to appease the Premier.”