Ben-gurion Declines Invitation to Form New Cabinet; Explains Decision

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion today refused to accept President Izhak Ben-Zvi’s request that he undertake formation of a new government. The rejection was made in a letter to the President in which the Prime Minister listed “profound concern for the security and honor of Israel” as the reason for the decision.

The letter came soon after four former partners of the Prime Minister’s Mapai party in the former coalition took a firm position that Mapai should not have a majority in any new coalition and the Prime Minister’s decision was presumed to be related to this fact.

Talks held between Mapai leaders led by Finance Minister Levi Eshkol and representatives of the former coalition partners reached an impasse. Mapai negotiators refused to budge from the position that as the largest and leading party, Mapai was entitled to a Cabinet majority despite the fact that, since the August 15 election, it had only 42 seats as against the 46 commanded by the former four coalition partners.

The issue was discussed by the Prime Minister with other Mapai leaders at a meeting today of the Mapai central committee before the Prime Minister made known his position to President Ben-Zvi. The letter of rejection referred dramatically to the successive Israel Chiefs of Staff, whom the Prime Minister lauded for devotion and loyalty. In his letter, the Prime Minister also said farewell to colleagues in the government “with whom I have long been associated.”

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