JERUSALEM (Sep. 14)
President Ben-Zvi today asked Finance Minister Levi Eshkol to undertake formation of a new government after the President met with a Mapai delegation which proposed Mr. Eshkol for the task. The President previously had asked Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to undertake the mandate but the Prime Minister declined.
Mr. Eshkol, who was scheduled to leave for Vienna tomorrow to participate in a World Bank conference, postponed that trip to begin work on forming a new coalition. He has been acting as head of a Mapai negotiating committee for the past two weeks, sounding out other parties on various proposals for a new government.
He was expected to try initially to negotiate a coalition under Mr. Ben-Gurion’s premiership with the same partners as in the former coalition. There appeared good prospects that he might succeed in such an effort since Mapai reportedly has dropped an earlier insistence that it have a majority in any new government as it has had in past ones.
Earlier today, the Liberal party rejected a bid from Mr. Eshkol to join a narrow coalition in which the National Religious party would be a third partner. Mr. Eshkol made the offer as head Mapai negotiator to Izhar Harari of the Liberal party. Mr. Harari’s negative reply was in line with a decision of his party against joining any narrow coalition. The Liberal party wants a broad coalition with the parties that formed the prior government.