JERUSALEM (Mar. 2)
President Ben-Zvi failed today in a last-ditch effort to induce leaders of the parties of Israel’s outgoing coalition government to conciliate their differences and avoid general elections by agreeing to a new Government.
The President made his appeal to the party leaders at an unprecedented joint meeting which he called unexpectedly after completing an unsuccessful initial round of separate talks with party leaders which followed Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s report that he was unable to form a new coalition to replace the one dissolved by his resignation on January 31.
Three of Mapai’s coalition partners–the Progressive party, Mapam and Achdut Avodah–reiterated to the President today that they would not rejoin a coalition under Mr. Ben-Gurion as Prime Minister. The National Religious party and the Religious Workers party reiterated their readiness to rejoin a coalition under Mr. Ben-Gurion provided at least one more party, presumably the Progressives, would also join.
A Mapai spokesman emphasized the party’s determined opposition to naming any other leader but Mr. Ben-Gurion and asserted that demands by the other parties for some other Mapai leader was tantamount to "dictating" to Mapai. He said his party preferred a negotiated solution to Israel’s month-long Government crisis but that it was prepared to go before the electorate "with confidence."
CONSIDERS NEW ELECTIONS UNTIMELY AND WASTE OF PUBLIC MONEY
Mr. Ben-Zvi, in his appeal, urged the last-minute reconsideration by the party leaders saying that elections would be "untimely," and detrimental to the nation’s interests. He also expressed the belief that elections would involve a waste of public money and loss of international prestige at a time when this was most needed.
The President also told the party leaders that a sudden political campaign at this time might cost Israel the loss of opportunities "which are on the horizon for the country’s progress and development." He stressed that an election campaign would stretch nerves which in any case would be harassed by the testimonies expected at the trial of Nazi mass murderer Adolf Eichmann which begins April 11.
Adding that elections would produce only minor changes in the balance of political strength of the parties, he urged reconstitution of the outgoing coalition Cabinet with the understanding that the feud between Mr. Ben-Gurion and Pinhas Lavon, the ousted secretary-general of the Histadrut, would be closed by acceptance by all concerned of the findings of a Ministerial Committee as the last word.
This was a reference to a Ministerial report which in December exonerated Mr. Lavon of responsibility for a security disaster which occurred in 1954 when he was Minister of Defense. Mr. Ben-Gurion resigned in protest against the findings after calling the report one of half truths, bias and distortion. Subsequently, Mr. Ben-Gurion forced Mr. Lavon out of his Histadrut post.
MAPAI HOLDS KEY TO SOLUTION OF CRISIS, COALITION PARTNERS ASSERT
In reply to the plea of the President, leaders of the coalition parties asserted that the responsibility for plunging the country into an election rested with the Mapai party. Moshe Carmel of Achdut Avodah, speaking also for Mapam and the Progressives, also said that Mapai held the key to solution of the crisis without elections. He asserted that the party could have the Premiership with the same partners as the outgoing coalition with any leader other than Mr. Ben-Gurion.
Izhar Harari, speaking for the Progressive party, recalled that after Mr. Ben-Gurion retracted his charges against the members of the Ministerial committee, he in effect revived the charges in his letter of resignation to-the President. He added that this made it impossible for his party to accept Mr. Ben-Gurion’s leadership.
Prior to Mr. Ben-Zvi’s dramatic last minute effort at conciliation, all parties except Mapai announced that they wanted elections earlier than next fall. Mapam, Achdut Avodah and the Progressive party said they would fight for-the earliest possible date–July 11. The National Religious party said it favored a mid-August date.