JERUSALEM (Mar. 1)
President Ben-Zvi, in an unprecedented move, today invited the leaders of all parties in the outgoing coalition Government to meet with him tomorrow in what apparently was a last-ditch effort to avert new general elections in Israel’s month-long Government crisis.
Under the law, the President consults each party leader separately before naming a Premier-designate. If he does not succeed during the first such series of talks, he may hold a second round but the President has never convened all parties in a Joint meeting. Mr. Ben-Zvi consulted with Justice Minister Pinhas Rosen before issuing the invitation for the meeting tomorrow, apparently to determine whether there were any legal barriers to such a meeting.
Prior to the surprise call to all parties, Mr. Ben-Zvi had been scheduled to begin a second round of talks after Mr. Ben-Gurion told him yesterday that he was unable to form: a new Government, The Mapai party then indicated it planned to introduce a bill in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament next week to set October or November as the date for new elections.
The October or November date is in line with Mapai strategy to postpone the elections to the maximum in the hope that the passage of time will make the voting public forget the Lavon Affair and bring a rebuilding of the prestige the party lost in the bitter struggle. The Herut and the Progressives submitted bills setting June 6 as the election day. Bills submitted by Mapam and Achdut Avodah called for elections on July 11. The religious bloc compromise was for an August 29 election. Best estimates were for an election day some time between the end of July and the middle of August.
MAPAI SETS UP COMMITTEE TO DECIDE ON LAVON’S ROLE IN ELECTIONS
Meanwhile, the Mapai leadership today discussed the new internal party problem created by Mr. Ben-Gurion’s statement that he would not permit his name to appear on a Mapai election list with that of Pinhas Lavon, the ousted Histadrut leader. The leaders decided to set up a special party committee to clarify Mr. Lavon’s position in the party and the question of his expected candidacy for a Knesset seat. Mr. Ben-Gurion was understood to have given other Mapai leaders a clear-cut promise that he would abide by whatever findings the special committee submitted.
Mapai leaders were understood to be confident that Mr. Lavon would not want to split his party and would, therefore, probably not engage in an open election fight with the Ben Gurion group over his ouster from the Histadrut.
A proposal that all parties of the outgoing coalition, with the exception of Mapai, should serve as an interim government until the elections will be submitted by the Herut party to President Ben-Zvi. Although such an interim coalition would lack 24 Knesset seats short of a majority, the party was represented as believing some of the opposition parties would join such a temporary government.
Menachem Beigin, the Herut leader, told the press today that his party would insist on the earliest possible elections and would exert maximum efforts to defeat the Mapai-sponsored election bill with its anticipated October or November election date.
Mr. Beigin said that when Mr. Ben-Gurion declined to accept Mr. Ben-Zvi’s mandate, the President was obliged, according to tradition, to call on the next largest party–Herut. To facilitate the immediate establishment of an “effective caretaker government, ” the Herut party will press for an extension of the present caretaker coalition without Mapai and will seek to bring together other opposition parties to give such a Mapai-less coalition a vote of confidence, he added.